Talk To Us…

The Persnickety Proofreader wants to hear from you.

Do you have questions about grammar or punctuation? Ask us.

Want to know more about how to improve your writing? Ask us.

Need to know when to use “they’re,” “there” or “their” in that presentation you’re working on? Ask us.

Have other questions? You guessed it… Ask us.


30 Responses to Talk To Us…

  1. John says:


    Thank you once again for your quick reply.
    The length of the answer is not a problem when it is as informative, and fully explained, as your’s is.

  2. John says:


    Many thanks for all of your help so far.
    I’ve decided to create a website to showcase my writing. All of it will be free to read online, and not to make any money from downloads.

    With this in mind, how should written work be laid out for the web? Which type styles and font sizes are best suited? Should paragraphs still be indented, and do they need double spacing between them? Should the writing fill a page width, or just be central as this site is? Is black on white best, or can pastel coloured backgrounds be acceptable?

    I know it’s lots of questions looking for lots of answers, but your help is appreciated.

    • persnicketyproofreader says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your continued interest – and your terrific questions! I appreciate your confidence in my knowledge base. I just hope I can adequately respond to these questions for you.

      Let me preface my comments by saying I may not be the best person to consult about website layout. Remember the old television commercial with the guy who said, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”? (I think it was Chris Robinson, who played Dr. Rick Webber on General Hospital back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.)

      That said, I’ll try to cobble together something that seems reasonably intelligent and helpful. Let’s look at each of your questions individually. After all, as my late godfather used to say, “The best way to go about eating an elephant is one bite at a time.”

      How should written work be laid out for the web?
      There really is no hard-and-fast rule regarding layout. I guess it depends on what you’re using your site for. Will you be blogging regularly? Are you posting excerpts from your new novel? Essays? Poetry? News articles?

      Each of these has its own format and is best showcased in its own way. The template I used for this site (it’s called Contempt, by the way) uses single-spaced, left-justified type in a sans-serif font with double spacing between paragraphs. I haven’t played with any other template options, so I’m not sure what style rules govern WordPress’ other available templates.

      Which type styles and font sizes are best suited?
      In choosing a type face, you’ll want to go with something that’ll be easy on your readers’ eyes. Unfortunately, the template I used for this site doesn’t allow me to change the font (or, if it does, I haven’t figured out how to do that); but if you can select your own font, I would recommend a serif font, like Times New Roman or Garamond.

      You may or may not be able to choose a font size; again, that option may be tied to the template you decide to use. But readers who have a scroll wheel-enhanced mouse (and many of today’s mice have them) would be able to adjust the font to a comfortable size.

      Should paragraphs still be indented, and do they need double spacing between them?
      Indenting is a matter of personal preference; but whatever you decide to do, John, be consistent. Don’t indent on one page and go flush left on another. You want a consistent, unified look and feel to your site. As for double spacing between paragraphs, I would definitely recommend that. You want to make your content as reader friendly as possible. If you’ve got the greatest info on the planet but your site is difficult to read, even the most info-hungry reader is going to give up at some point.

      Should the writing fill a page width, or just be central as this site is?
      As with overall appearance, the column width will depend on the template you use. WordPress offers a wide range of templates, which you can tweak to your own preferences. Some feature a two-column format, others three. But WordPress is just one of numerous site-building options. My husband directed me to SquareSpace, which he heard about through Hak5. Seems the Hak5 techno-geeks (who used to sing the praises of WordPress) have been raving about SquareSpace’s ease of use, heightened functionality and apparent ability to kick WordPress’ cyber-butt. Of course, it’ll also cost you a bunch more than $0.00 a month… but, again, you need to decide what works best for you.

      Is black on white best, or can pastel coloured backgrounds be acceptable?
      Black on white is certainly a tried-and-true combination that offers excellent contrast and good readability; but several other color combinations can work equally well. Just be sure you’ve got adequate contrast. Few things are worse than suffering eye strain while trying to read content against a badly contrasted background.

      I was reading an html-formatted email from a major gourmet-foods and cooking-utensils retailer the other day; I must have been reading for a full minute before I realized the beige bar at the left side of the page contained a column of white text. I had to highlight it in order to be able to read it! Granted, my eyesight’s not what it used to be, but this was not an effective use of color; and I would have expected this large, international company to be more aware of its need to use more reader-friendly colors.

      All in all, John, I guess the template, style, layout, font and color scheme you choose will depend largely on where your personal preferences lie.

      Thanks again for this passel of excellent questions, John. And once you’ve got your website up and running, I’d be happy to post a link to it on the Links page.

      I hope this helps.

  3. John says:


    Many thanks once again for your response. In answer to your questions: no I won’t be blogging; and I intend to post completed short stories and poems as I finish them. The site will be easy to navigate and free of Java script and animations.

    As I am building my site from scratch, I won’t be using custom templates, so I can use any type style, font size, colours, and layout I choose. However, I am grateful for the points you have raised and I will certainly bear them in mind as I build the site.

    • persnicketyproofreader says:

      Hi John,

      Good luck to you in developing your site. You are a braver man than I, Gunga Din.

      Just a reminder: Please let me know when your site is live, so that I may post a link to it on the Links page.

  4. I was intrigued by Rita’s link to SquareSpace and sent the link to my communications professor at Southern Connecticut State University, SCSU. Last week, we had a spirited discussion about this site in our Internet Advertising & Promotion class – Com 402.

    I always recommend as an unlimited resource for learning about all aspects of web design and development.

    John, assuming that you plan to reference a linked style sheet for your website, there are many standards compliant approaches to separate style and content. covers this topic quite extensively.

    Another interesting viewpoint is:

    • persnicketyproofreader says:


      Thanks for your feedback on the SquareSpace site; I’m glad to hear it spurred such spirited dialogue among your fellow students.

      I also appreciate your including these other two links; I’m about to go check them out now.

      If anyone else has a favorite useful site to contribute to the conversation, by all means, don’t keep it to yourself; let us know about it. Each of us has his/her own area of expertise, and we can all learn from each other here.

      As always, Barbara, thanks for your helpful input.

  5. John says:

    Hi Rita,

    I think it’s patience and perseverance as well as good luck is what I’ll need! When the site goes live I’ll let you know.

    To Barbara: is a good site but too expensive for my taste. However, Zen Garden is very interesting, thanks for your input.

  6. John says:

    Hi Rita,

    It’s been some time since I last wrote, but now my site,, is up and running. As you will see on my ‘Links’ page I’ve included yourself.

    I would really value an honest opinion of the writing, whether it’s good or bad it will be appreciated. Any comments you may have on the writing presentation, and the site in general, will also be of value.

    • persnicketyproofreader says:

      Hi John,

      Yes, I’ve visited your site — and thanks for the link! I’ve begun reading your stories and am really looking forward to reading more as time permits. Your narrative is both descriptive and engaging and I quite enjoyed “Cupboard Love”; still, I must admit the ending left me somewhat perplexed. I guess that’s the fun of writing stories involving intrigue and suspense.

      Nicely done, John.

  7. John says:

    Hi Rita,

    Now that reply was impressively fast!

    With “Cupboard Love” I did not want to be too explicit with the clues I placed in the narrative. “Charlotte” was a vampire, and needed human blood to sustain her existence in order for her to return to the Dracula estates.

    Obviously, from your comment I’ve been too devious with the ending. However, it is welcome to have your feedback.

  8. Jay says:

    Is it a given that “pernickety” has been replaced with “persnickety”? I think I must be a bit too old school. ~ Jay

  9. Derek Couturas says:

    Is there a plan to follow when deciding whether to use to, or too?

    • persnicketyproofreader says:

      Hi Derek,

      Good question. “To” is a preposition and is used thus: “John and I went to the store.”

      The adverb “too” is a synonym for the word “also”; you could use it when you mean to say “as well” or “in addition.” For instance: “John and I went to the store. Henry went there, too” (meaning, Henry went there also).

      If in doubt, swap out your intended word with “also”; if it doesn’t make sense, you probably need to use “to.”

      Thanks for asking, Derek. Hope this helps.

  10. Maria Van Saun says:

    Good Morning!

    A quick question today… One or two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence?

    • persnicketyproofreader says:

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for the great question. I get asked that a lot, actually… but seldom here on the blog site.

      While conventional norms “back in the day” had been two spaces after a period, more and more, that is giving way to a single space. The thinking on this is that the double spacing creates a jarring stop for the reader and interrupts the flow of the writing.

      Hope that helps.

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