Have you ever had to design a brochure for your organization? Create a PowerPoint presentation? Write an article or a blog post? In today’s digital age, you probably know how to do one or more of these things with any basic computer program.
With the release of new design applications like Canva and improvements to programs like Microsoft Word, more and more people have begun to play designer and typographer. While these tools are helpful and easy to use, the knowledge of several simple typography rules can make or break your professional status.
These rules must be learned and cannot necessarily be taught by these computer programs and applications. But how can you get some of the basics down? Welcome to Typography 101!
Typography Habits and Mistakes
We may have academia to thank for several of the most common typography mistakes you see and make every day.
Like many of you, I set up almost every paper from grade school to college in the same way. I’d open up a Microsoft Word document, set the font to 12-point Times New Roman, adjust the spacing to double-spaced, indent every paragraph and insert two spaces after every period.
But is this always the best way to format a professional document?
Indentation and Line Breaking
As a general rule, an indentation and a line break should never go together. If you have a line break between paragraphs, you do not need to add an indentation. Likewise, if you have an indentation, do not insert a line break.
Click on the following images to see examples of correct and incorrect indentation and line break usage.
Spacing After a Period
Remember all of those times your middle school teachers taught you to insert two spaces after a period when writing a paper?
While this may have made it easier for them to read through hundreds of pages of student work, the professional world disagrees. Two spaces after a period can make the break in between sentences unnecessarily large. If you still insert two spaces after a period in your professional work, now is a good time to break that small habit.
Text Alignment and Widows
When working with Microsoft Word, you should usually opt for a flush left rag right paragraph alignment. This simply means that all of the lines of text align on the left side of the paper but may have different end points on the right side.
However, one problem can arise when formatting text in this way. A flush left rag right text alignment can occasionally leave “widows.” Just as regular widows are people who live alone after their spouse has passed away, widows in typography are words that are left alone at the end of a line.
Fortunately, this issue usually has an easy fix. In most cases, pressing the SHIFT + ENTER keys will cause the widow to jump to the next line. While simply pressing ENTER will begin a new paragraph, SHIFT allows the widow to move without the creation of a paragraph break.
On the less common occasion that you need to center align your text, refrain from allowing one word to hang at the end of the paragraph on its own line. Instead, play around with the line lengths to even them out, using the same SHIFT + ENTER technique as applied to widows.
All Capitalized Text
When setting text in all caps, moderation is key.
While lowercase letters vary in length and width, uppercase letters do not. The variation in lowercase letters allows the human brain to identify words based on the shapes of these letters combined together.
Thus, since capital letters all appear as rectangular shapes, setting text in all caps makes it more difficult for your brain to process words. This makes it easy to miss information that is written in all caps.
Using capitalization meaningfully for headlines or important pieces of information can make your text stand out without overwhelming the reader.
No matter which professional field you work in, these typography basics will help you compose coherent and neat documents.
Remember to keep these pointers in mind when drafting your next email or report. Your boss and clients will thank you for it!
Written by Kyle Henn; Marketing Manager.