Pleasures of Design

Although keying into a personal computer may seem to be a routine, mechanical process, the quality of the printed output still depends to a surprising extent on the skill of the individual operator.

To get the best results, the operator needs to understand and apply the same principles of good typesetting as those used by professionals – that way you stand a chance of being as good as they are.

We read type as characters grouped together in words which are in turn assembled into lines. It is therefore important that the space between the characters is less than that between the words and the space between the lines greater than that between the words. This may sound obvious but the failure to remember this simple rule is one reason why text is sometimes difficult to read.

So if words are forced out in too narrow a column, the word spacing can get too wide and create unsightly rivers of white. If you half-shut your eyes these white patches, running up and down the page, stand out clearly.

If extra space is inserted between individual characters legibility is impared and the “color” – that is the overall greyness – of the text changes.

The simplest way to avoid these problems and guarantee even word spacing is to range the text to the left. This is particularly useful in narrow columns, but even here it is good practice to use some hyphenation so that the variations in line length do not become too extreme.

If the text is justified – each line coming to the same length – then it will be essential to hyphenate to avoid very wide word spacing. Avoid more than three consecutive lines ending with a hyphen. One overspaced line in a long body of text is acceptable but if you are free to solve the problem by rephrasing the text, so much the better.

more ... Typesetting ... Part 2