"Versus" - and the winner is...
Author: Howard L. Seemann
Date: June, 1989
Keywords: DTP desktop publishing hints tips writing
Text: True or false? * Desktop publishing on a LaserWriter does not produce quality typesetting. * All output from a LaserWriter is instantly recognizable. * There's some really ugly material printed on the LaserWriter. * Real men don't use a mouse. Unfortunately, there's a bit of truth in all of these statements (except, perhaps, the last). But some of that truth can be diminished by care in the use of the software available to us for desktop publishing or for just making regular documents look more professional. For example, one of the easy tipoffs to LaserWriter (and the Imagewriter as well) output is the lack of ''smart'' quotes and apostrophes. Some users either don't know how to use correct punctuation or are unwilling to make the effort. (See below where you can find some of the more obscure keyboard characters available -- including smart quotes.) There are some other niceties that beginning users should be aware of as they produce newsletters or flyers: * Kerning. This is available on some programs, such as PageMaker, and permits the user to add or subtract the amount of space between letters. Excessive white space can be distracting. Look at the numeral ''11,'' for example. * Leading (pronounced ''ledding''), the space between lines. The normal default leading is 20 percent of the type size, so leading on 10 point type would be two points. But we don't always need that much. How much leading is needed depends on the height of the ascenders (as in h and l) and the depth of the descenders (as in g and y). By experimenting, you can see if the ascenders and descenders overlap or cut each other off. * Line width. Legibility studies have found that both short and long lines make it difficult for the reader. A good rule-of-thumb is that a line should be from 1.5 to 2 alphabets wide, depending on the size of type. On an 8.5x11 page, for example, use two or three columns. One column is too wide; four columns makes lines too short. * It is best to avoid using more than two different fonts on the same page. There is little virtue in using a number of fonts, because the reader finds it distracting. Type should be subtle and not attract attention to itself. (Some of us wish San Francisco had never been produced!) * Shun all-caps copy, either in text or headlines. We read several words at a time, based on the shape of the letters. Because all caps is not used often, we are not accustomed to the shapes of letters in all caps. * Ragged right, with type set flush left, is fine. But use ragged left sparingly as it hinders legibility. Also avoid large blocks of italic or boldface. Certainly avoid outline and shadow -- it looks funky, but it rarely reproduces well and distracts the reader from what you are trying to communicate. Don't get carried away by the power of the Macintosh word-processing capabilities. (This newsletter, for example, is 10 point Palatino with one point of leading or 10 on 11.) * White space should be kept to the outside of your page, not trapped within it. It's jarring to the reader. * Use one space after the end of a sentence, since two spaces might move the last word down to the next line, leaving too large a gap behind when setting type ragged right. * Be consistent in style. For example, if your headlines are flush left, your bylines also should be. At the same time, use a variety of weights of the same family, such as Helvetica, Helvetica Bold, Helvetica Black and Helvetica Narrow, for your headlines. Don't mix Times and Helvetica as display (14 point and above) type. I suggest using one of the two for headlines, the other for body type (under 14 point). Helvetica is used in Known Users headlines. * If you have large amounts of type and few headlines, try to break up the gray with artwork or pull quotes. The latter is a direct quote pulled from your article and set in a larger type (14 or 18 point) with an attribution in bold. Put a rule above and below the pull quote; I recommend placing it at the top of a column or columns rather than make your readers jump over the hurdle. * William Allen White, a fellow journalist, said in 1923: ''Consistency is a paste jewel that only cheap men cherish.'' I represent that remark, and recommend that your publication design should be consistent, with the same font, size and style as well as decoration throughout.
Two final notes: First, since this epistle just skims the surface of thoughts on typography, I recommend ''Graphic Design for the Electronic Age'' by Jan. V. White. Published by Watson-Guptill Publications (ISBN 0-8230-2122-X) in 1988. Price is $24.95. Second, I enjoy desktop publishing, believe that its virtues outshine its sins, and I don't feel like a eunuch in saying so. Back to your mouse. -- H.L.S.
Copyright © june, 1989 by Howard L. Seemann