The Elements of Comics Style

Writing is awash in conventions: Start a sentence with a capital letter. End a sentence with a period, question mark, or exclamation point. Don't hyphenate after an adverb that ends in "-ly." And on and on.

All that stuff is my stock-in-trade. So I was delighted to discover (by way of reader Joel Blum, of Paris -- thanks, Joel!) that comic-book letterers have their conventions too: Point the balloon tail at the character's mouth. Use burst balloons only for screaming. Use hollow sound effects when you need impact but have serious space constraints.

If I hadn't read all the way to the end of Nate Piekos's "Comics Grammar and Tradition" page, I would have missed wonderful information like "Old-school telepathy balloons look like a thought balloon except they have breath marks on opposing corners" and "Traditionally, whispered dialogue is indicated by a balloon with a dashed stroke. More recently accepted options are ..." 

An irresistible time-waster.



Presented by

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Entertainment

Just In