Whenever I go book shopping, I like to flip through the pages for a bit, see if I like the writing style, read an excerpt here and there, check the size of the font (this is highly important!) aaaand check if the author has a tendency to write huge blocks of text.
I have quite a short attention span. Whether it’s work or writing or chores, I can’t focus too long on one thing. Books need to be gripping or else I’m lost. I recently picked up Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell based upon a recommendation and the trailer of the upcoming movie. In retrospect, I suppose it’s my fault that I did not look inside this particular book when I spotted it on the shelf, but I’d been looking for it for so long and I was so excited when I found it that I didn’t bother.
So today I decided to take a look, and I see this:
I’m in trouble now. I do want to read this book. I always like to read books before their movie adaptations, but with blocks of text like that, well… it’s an experience I’m not looking forward to. I was hoping I just landed on a one-of-a-kind page, but flipping through it some more, I saw that David Mitchell has a penchant for avoiding the Enter key.
It’s not really just books either. Sometimes I come across a blog post with an interesting title and click on it, only to find that the blogger has lumped their words in a single paragraph, so I end up closing it quickly without reading a word. Work, too, presents me with several blocks of text, and I unfortunately can’t avoid them. It’s a nightmare!
I just want to know why it has to be that way. What’s to stop writers from putting breaks between every ten or twelve lines? What sort of literary value does a block of text have? All I get out of it is a feeling of general loss and distraction. Sometimes, the sentences go on and on and on without a single full stop!
I end up doing something I don’t like – skimming. The author has put words there for a reason, and I feel like I’m offending them if I start skimming, but I just can’t. My attention span covers 12 lines at the most and anything after that causes me to glaze over.
Does this happen to anyone else? Can you tackle blocks of text without hesitation? Why do you think authors resort to them?