Things that make you go “hmmm…”
Did you see the phrase “river of white” on my front page (in the “Proofreading Only” column) and wonder, “What on earth?” Wikipedia has a pretty succinct definition. A river of white is “…gaps in typesetting, which appear to run through a paragraph of text, due to a coincidental alignment of spaces.”
Simply put, it’s a big ol’ white space running down your paragraph.
Wanna see? Of course you do! Here’s a great example from Nick Higham (Private Eye, No 1340, 17 May – 30 May, 2013, page 9.):
Catch that? Let’s look again, only this time with it circled:
See the long streak of white nothing? That’s a “river of white.” Now go back and look at the first image. Can’t “unsee” it, can you?
What causes these?
There are number of reasons you’ll have these in your final, ready-for-print copy. It could be kerning, typeface width, how the text is justified, use of monospaced fonts, or even something else not on the tip of my tongue.
“Hey, BossLady, will you fix it?”
Well, that’s the tough part. As your proofreader, I can only point it out when you have one. Figuring it out may take some deep diving and experimentation with your font or typeface, which is something I can’t do with a PDF. Plus it would pull me away from the actual proofreading of your manuscript. Nobody wants that.
Which reminds me…
Issues like this are one of the reasons I require a PDF for proofreading. If I edit even a few words here and there in a Word file, the entire document could shift and a visual error like this gets lost before it goes to the final PDF stage, where it could pop back up like that one weed in the crack in my driveway that just will. not. die.
I need to see it just before it gets to the printer or before it is uploaded for print. It needs to have been copy edited two or three times before it gets to a proofreader. If I find copy editing-level errors in your PDF, I will send it back to you for further copy editing or I will stop and open a dialogue with you about switching to copy editing and have you send it to me as a Word file.
A river runs through it
Now that you know what a river of white looks like, I dare you to read a book and not look for one. The first time you see one will freak you out a bit, I swear. I triple dog dare you!