I had a not one-, not two-, but rather a three-part epiphany about why writers attempt to include various no-no's to their manuscripts format (as I once did).
Epiphany: Part I
Writers simply don't know any better. They're new to writing and submitting and don't realize that manuscripts for novels, short stories, screenplays and poetry should be submitted according to certain guidelines.
Epiphany: Part II
Word processing programs invite creativity. They overflow with font sizes, colors, types. They allow the inclusion of graphics, photos and interesting borders. They invite writers to turn text sideways and otherwise wow agents and publishers.
What's not to love!
Epiphany: Part III
The urge to use such gimmicks to "sell" the story is usually a direct reflection of a writer's confidence. The lower a person's belief she's got the ability to convey her story through words, the more likely she is to use various means to aid her endeavor.
I've fallen into all of these traps, partly out of ignorance and partly because I didn't understand the reasoning behind guidelines I found to be uncomfortably restrictive.
So here's my attempt to provide that reasoning:
Martha' List of What Should NOT Be Included in a Manuscript and Why
• fancy fonts (anything other than 12 pt. Courier or Times): hard to read
• colored fonts: hard to read
• anything other than white typing paper: hard to read, especially if the paper is colored or has borders
• any spacing other than that described in proper manuscript guidelines (take a look at William Shunn's proper manuscript format for a short story): hard to read
• cute symbols used at chapter headings or to separate writing segments: visually distracting and possibly off-putting if the reader doesn't share the writers taste in such decorations
• graphics/photos that demonstrate what the writer has explained in the text: implies the writer is not confident about the description he's given (any graphics/photos that are necessary should be submitted as an addendum to the manuscript)
• sorry gift: "Because guilt over spending is playing a big role in the sales downturn, he teaches salespeople to suggest a “sorry gift”—of another timepiece—for a wife who might be disappointed that her husband just dropped a sizable sum on his own wrist."
• hair crush: "OK guys I am not going to lie here, I do this thing that I like to call my “hair crush.” My hair crushes are people with fab hair that I personally would kill to have."
• seagen: "A vegan that eats seafood."
Long live language, our word-oriented means of communication that changes as necessary, whether we want it to or not!
I'm a writing junkie looking for other writing junkies who are in this gig for the cool of it. People striving to be better writers because that's where their minds fly. I've accrued any number of writing credentials: author of "Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction"; writer of short stories published in Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review, Iconoclast and other literary journals; journalist of hundreds of articles for such publications as the Chicago Tribune and Inside Karate Magazine; playwright of a play produced in Hollywood. But what I'm looking to create now is a safe haven for writers where they can forget the brutality of the publishing world for awhile and help one another jump literature to a new level. If you're that person, or would like to be, welcome.