Justify Me

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Which style of justification do you prefer when reading a book?

  • Full justification. I like it neat.

    Votes: 7 63.6%
  • Left justification. I like it edgy.

    Votes: 3 27.3%
  • Center justification. I'm weird that way...

    Votes: 1 9.1%
  • Right justification. I am just being silly...

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    11

Jamfke

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This should probably go in the design pages, but I'm wondering what everyone's preferred text justification is. I've seen threads about this on other forums, and there's probably one somewhere around here, but I'm too old and tired to do a thorough search.

So, do you like your text all nice and tidy on the edges of the paragraph, squared up with the last line justified to the left, or do you like the jagged edge style with full left justify? I've seen comments that it's easier to read the full left style, but others have said they like it nice and tidy. Let's take a poll, shall we?
 

Nobby-W

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The poll really needs an 'it depends' option. Many years ago, when I actually worked as a typesetter, there were plenty of different reasons you might pick one over the other.

The last two options are not likely to be suitable for large bodies of text; you would mostly find them being used in a layout element, caption or some other short text block. Titles are a special case and you might do different things with titles than you do with body copy, but titles are often a layout element in their own right.

Ragged right (left justified) text isn't necessarily edgy; you can often see (for example) children's books using it. It will give you a more informal look, or it could go with a choice of font or other typographic parameters for some aesthetic style. For example, coffee table books with lots of white space and illustrations in their layout might make a feature of the typography and use ragged right setting as a design element.

If you're doing a multi-column layout with relatively little use of whitespace as a layout element and/or photos or illustrations with square borders, then a fully justified text setting might be in keeping with the illustrations.

Generally, if the typography stands out in a document with any informative function (as opposed to, say, an advertisement or poster) you're probably doing something wrong. If you have art talent in-house, then by all means make your rulebook look like a death metal 'zine, but you're doing your readers a disservice if you ignore the function of the document in favour of making it look arty or clever for is own sake.

These days I write a lot of boring, long (100pp+) technical documents such as specs for my job. Even though I'm largely constrained to work through MS word (which is actually a terrible system for doing technical documents), just a bit of attention to the typography is enough to get them to stand out be perceived as much better than folks expected.
 
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Silent Green

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I've been wondering: Is it even possible to do a good ragged right without hyphenation? Unless you're very lucky and the words just fit naturally, that is.

Even though I'm largely constrained to work through MS word (which is actually a terrible system for doing technical documents), just a bit of attention to the typography is enough to get them to stand out be perceived as much better than folks expected.

I always got appreciative looks just for using Computer Modern Roman instead of Times New Roman. Probably just for breaking the monotony. That was the 90s, mind.

So what do you do to make your documents stand out?
 

Nobby-W

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I've been wondering: Is it even possible to do a good ragged right without hyphenation? Unless you're very lucky and the words just fit naturally, that is.



I always got appreciative looks just for using Computer Modern Roman instead of Times New Roman. Probably just for breaking the monotony. That was the 90s, mind.

So what do you do to make your documents stand out?

Not be shit. It's quite a low bar.
  • Work to your medium. MS Word isn't a proper composition tool.
  • Use typefaces that work well together, set up paragraphs with appropriate indentation and spacing and set up headings with numbering and small enough sizes that they don't look too clunky.
  • Set the text around 10/12 rather than 12pt and use either two columns or wide gutters in the margin, although often that's not practical if you include a lot of tables and illustrations in a MS Word document.
  • Set up tables so the grid isn't overpowering.
  • On a client that had a very light corporate colour scheme I changed the text colour so it was about 75% gray rather than black.
  • Don't overdo the chart junk in illustrations.
  • Be sparing with colour unless you're designing a flyer or poster.
  • In fact, less is often more unless you have something specific to achieve. Even in things like competitive RFP's I've gotten feedback about the quality of submissions that had nothing more complex than line art diagrams in them.
TeX will give you much better H&J out of the box due to its backtracking layout algorithm. Times is functional but it's overused and it's not a thing of beauty; it doesn't render all that well on screen either.

Ragged right isn't mutually exclusive with hyphenation. If you look at most composition software it will still use hyphenation on ragged right setting.
 
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