How to Write Comics: 7 Tips on Writing for a Letterer from Cardinal Rae

bang lettering how to write comics cardinal rae oneshi press

Welcome back, comics-writers-to-be! It’s Lynsey G again—Oneshi Press co-founder and editor-in-chief. This week marks the final installment in the “How to Write Comics” guest blog series. So far, we’ve covered the Basics, Pagination and Page Layout, and Panel Descriptions. Now it’s time to talk about dialogue. And in comics, dialogue means writing for a letterer.

It’s important to remember that your letterer is just as valuable a member of your team as you (the writer), the artist(s), or even the reader. Because this is, after all, a reading experience. And reading usually means letters. Your letterer is the conduit between your brilliant dialogue and your legions of readers. As such, they need to be able to understand your writing so that they can turn it into the right kind of text on the page. They also work intimately with the art created by your artist(s), finding the right spots to place dialogue bubbles, thought bubbles, text boxes, sound effects, and more. In other words, lettering is a whole thing. It’s incredibly important to your project. And that means you have to treat your letterer well.

I’m just a writer with no idea how to do lettering. So I talked to industry stalwart, consummate professional, and amazingly talented letterer Cardinal Rae. She put together a few great tips about what she wants writers to know.


Hey there, Oneshi readers! Cardinal Rae, letterer extraordinaire, here to let you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to set up a script for your letterer. I know, I know, people say there’s no WRONG way to set up a script, but if you want your letterer to love the story as much as you do, these simple tips and tricks can help.

1) DON’T USE ALL CAPS WHEN WRITING YOUR DIALOGUE.

2) In lettering, the letter i is a very special one, meaning it is only capitalized (“crossbar”) when you’re referring to yourself. You don’t put a crossbar I in the middle of a word, either, even if it’s shouted. Here’s a little infographic to help:

lettering tip letter i cardinal rae oneshi press how to write comics

Yes, there’s a workaround and fix for changing all the capital Is in your script, but know that letterers are always under pressure to get books done, so making it just a little easier on them is just the right thing to do.

3) Another good thing you can do is to separate the person speaking from the text with a simple return. Here’s an example:

TRACY:
Nikola…what are you doing with that dildo?

NIKOLA:
Uh…you weren’t supposed to see that. Don’t you ever knock?!

4) Now, if you notice, I underlined the word “knock” above. That lets the letterer know that you, as the writer, want that word bolded. Using bold text or italicized text in the Word doc (or whichever program you choose) can be difficult to see, especially if the letterer doesn’t have the same system fonts you do. So always use underlines to indicate boldface.

5) Yet another tip: Don’t write SO much in a panel that you can’t even see the art.

6) When you get the art back, it’s always good do a lettering pass and rewrite/tweak the dialogue for the letterer. You’d be amazed what DOESN’T fit in a panel. The writer Alan Moore is quoted here in talking about how many words should go in each balloon and each panel.

7) Lastly, please make sure that your grammar and spelling is correct. It’s not the letterer’s job to correct your spelling. I tend to make the changes because, if my name is going on it, I want to make sure that the book looks as good as it can, but that really shouldn’t fall on the letterer.


Well, that does it, wonderful readers (who are also writers)! I hope the “How to Write Comics” series has helped you by pointing out some of the dos and don’ts of writing comics. Follow the rules and tips and ideas we’ve outlined here, and you’ll have a much easier time working with the other creative professionals who will see your project through from script to finished comic!

Now that you’ve got the basics, we can’t wait to see what you make! Show us your work when it’s ready, and we’ll consider it for publication in our semiannual comics anthology!

In the meantime, happy creating!


Read the rest of the How to Write Comics guest blog series here!

Find Cardinal Rae on Twitter!

To learn more about Oneshi Press co-founder, editor in chief, and writer in residence, Lynsey G, visit our Team Credits page or Lynsey’s website.

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