publishing's twelve most common mistakes
Roger C. Parker,
that spell the difference
frequently spell the difference between attractive,
easy-to-read pages that project a professional
image and boring, hard-to-read pages that
undermine your firm or association's credibility.
Here are some of the areas
to pay particular attention to.
Gray pages are the result of too much
type, not enough white space and a lack of
typographic contrast between each element
of page architecture. Readers should be able
to glance at a page and easily identify headlines,
subheads, body copy and captions.
Typeface, type size and type
style choices that are only slightly different
from one another confuse the reader and create
boring pages. Make sure that headlines and
subheads form a strong contrast with adjacent
text. This contrast can be created by using
a different typeface, a significantly larger
type size, a different type style or
Other causes include:
line-spacing. Line spacing should be
proportional to type size, line length and--most
important--the typeface used. Your software
program's automatic, or "default" leading
(the fancy word for line spacing) choice
is rarely the right one.
headlines. Iinsufficient white space
surrounding headlines and subheads makes
them hard to find, hard to read and--thus--they
fail to attract your reader into reading
Text that extends too close to the edges
of each page projets a claustrophobic image
and makes it harder for your readers to
hold your brochure or newsletter without
obscuring some of the words.
Lack of white space at top, bottom and sides
White space makes pages more attractive
and easier to read by providing a resting
space for the reader's eyes and creating empty/filled
contrast with the text on the page.
white space. One easy way to add white
space is to employ a "scholarsmargin," a
narrow column of white space at the outer
edge of each page that can be also used
for occasional text like notes or pull-quotes.
space at page top. You can align text
and graphics along a deep top margin, or
sink, that builds white space into the top
of each page.
white space at column endings. Scalloped
columns, columns of unequal length, also
add white space and visual interest to the
bottom of each page.
Long lines of small type or short lines of
It's hard to decide which is worse!
lines of small type are tiring to read
because each line requires several left-to-right
eye movements. In addition, readers can
get lost at the ends of each line on the
right and return to the beginning of the
wrong line-or, even worse, reread the same
line (called doubling).
lines of large type are characterized
by excessive hyphenation and awkward word
spacing (lines with wide word spacing can
follow lines with narrow word spacing).
Narrow columns of justified text
Narrow columns of justified type do not
offer enough opportunities for words to be
properly spaced. As a result, lines containing
a few long words are characterized by huge
gaps between words and lines containing several
short words exhibit extremely tight word spacing.
columns of justified text are also characterized
by excessive hyphenation.
Page borders should reinforce the text,
not distract. Boxed borders create barriers
to reading on to the next page. Centered,
boxed borders are inappropriate for asymmetrical
to boxed pages include top and bottom borders
which extend the width of the text or a light
horizontal rule at the top of the page combined
with a heavy rule at the bottom of the page
to "weight," or anchor the page.
Overuse of reverses, screens, rules and boxes
Small areas of reversed text can attract
attention far out of importance to the importance
of the text they contain.
single, large reversed headline is preferable
to several smaller reversed headlines.
set against screened or tinted backgrounds
(less than 100% color saturation) is harder
to read than regular text because the reduced
foreground/background contrast makes it
harder for readers to recognize the distinctive
shapes of each letter.
and boxes form barriers which not only distract
but also add clutter to a page. When used
properly, such as above subheads, rules emphasize
that one topic is ending and another is being
form even stronger barriers but should only
be used to intentionally separate text or
visuals not used simply for emphasis.
Readers are no longer willing to accept
up-and-down "inch mark" quotation marks. Replace
them with open and closed quotes and use typeset
apostrophes rather than vertical "inch and
foot" or tick marks.
two hyphens with Em dashes to introduce
and close parenthetical phrases and En dashes
to indicate duration (January-February).
hard (or non-breaking) spaces to keep names
and dates from splitting across two lines.
"Hang" punctuation so that quotation marks
appear in the column margins, to maintain
the alignment of the first (and-with justified
text-the last) letters of each line.
"Floating" initial caps
Initial caps should be closely related
to the text they introduce. Carefully align
the baseline of the initial cap with one of
the lines of the paragraph. Text should wrap
as tightly to the initial caps as possible.
Try setting the first line of text following
an initial cap in upper case type.
possible, rewrite the first sentence to
avoid sentences beginning with one-letter
(i.e. "I," "A" or ) or two-letter words
overhanging initial caps like T's, Y's or
A's and open letters like C with care because
it is difficult to relate adjacent text
Excessive text wraps.
Whenever possible, align photographs,
charts and pull-quotes with the underlying
column grid. Photographs, charts and pull-quotes
placed between columns or extending part way
into the next column create problems by reducing
the line length of the text in the adjacent
columns. This disturbs the reader's established
wraps extending into columns of justified
text cause awkward word spacing and excessive
hyphenation. Pull-quotes and visuals placed
between columns of left-justified text looks
awkward because the irregular line endings
on the left are inconsistent with the neat,
vertically alignment of each line on the right.
Avoid unwanted text spacing within and
spaces. Avoid using two spaces after
periods. Only one space is needed following
indents. Never indent the first line
of a paragraph following a headline or subhead;
indents are only necessary within columns
of text because the headline or subhead
signals the beginning of a new paragraph.
hyphenate. Hyphenate left-justified
text to avoid exaggerated differences in
line length, and distracting shapes. Hyphenated
justified text to eliminate large gaps in
lines containing just a few long words.
word spacing. With justified text, adjust
your software program's word spacing justification
limits command to reduce maximum permissible
lists. Eliminate space in lists by reducing
the distance between bullets (or numbers)
and the text they introduce.
Widows and orphans
Pay particular attention to the tops and
bottoms of columns and pages.
Avoid widows, sentences beginning new paragraphs
placed subheads at the bottom of a column
or page. When a new paragraph begins, keep
at least two--preferably three--lines together.
Avoid orphans, sentence fragments or portions
of hyphenated words isolated at the top
of a new column or page.
Avoid subheads appearing by themselves at
the bottom of a colun or page. Make sure
that at least two sentences of the paragarph
the subhead introduces appears following
Color obscures more often tha it enhances.
Often, color detracts, rather than emphasizes,
works best as a background element, such as
a field against which text is set, rather
than as a foreground element itself. Text
set in color is often harder to read than
the same words set in black. Just setting
headlines and subheads in color does not necessarily
mean that they will be more noticeable than
the text surrounding them. Small text set
in color is hardest to read of all.
overly bright colored backgrounds that can
interfere with headlines and text. Always
provide plenty of foreground/background contrast.
Use the Preflight Checklist found in the
Print Worksheets to
review your publications and make sure that
you have not inadvertantly included design
elements that hinder, rather than enhance,
your reader's understanding of your message.