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Typographic Rules to Remember

by Kasper Aaberg. Average Reading Time: almost 3 minutes.

Typographers will tell you to eliminate widows and orphans.
Typographers are MONSTERS

Typographers are Monsters by Kasper Aaberg 2011

 

Good typographic design is like graphic design in general mainly a combination of common sense and keeping things simple. Look at attractive examples of typographic designs that are similar to what you’re trying to create.

The following list explains some basic rules.

One space between sentences…

Use only one space after periods, colons, exclamation points, question marks— any punctuation that separates two sentences.

“Curly” quotes and apostrophes…

Use real quotation marks and apostrophes—never those grotesque generic marks that actually symbolize inch or foot marks: use “and” — not “and”. Typewriter quotation marks are the single most visible sign of unprofessional type.

Dashes…

Never use two hyphens instead of a dash.
Use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes appropriately. 

Hyphen: ( ) is a punctuation mark used to join words and to separate syllables of a single word. It should not be confused with dashes , which are longer and have different uses, and with the minus sign ( − ) which is also longer.

Em dash: A dash the length of an em, used to indicate a break in a sentence: His friend—also an editor—thought the same thing.

En dash: A dash the length of an en, used to indicate a range of values: 1960–1990

Underlining…

Don’t underline. Underlining is for typewriters; italic is for professional text.

Capitals…

Very rarely (almost never) use all capital letters. Text set in all caps is much harder to read.

Kerning…

Adjust the space between letters according to your sensitive visual perception— optical kerning.

Tabs & Indents…

Use those tabs and first-line indents regularly. NEVER use the space bar to align text.

Paragraphs…

Either indent the first line of paragraphs or add extra space between them—not both.

Widows & Orphans…

Never leave widows and orphans bereft on the page. Widow: when a paragraph ends and leaves fewer than seven characters (not words) on the last line. Orphan: when the last line of a paragraph won’t fit at the bottom of a column and must end itself at the top of the next column.

Hyphenations & line breaks…

Avoid more than two hyphenations in a row. Avoid too many hyphenations in any paragraph. Avoid stupid hyphenations. Never hyphenate a heading. Break lines sensibly.

Leading, or linespacing…

Keep the linespacing consistent.

Justified text…

Justify text only if the line is long enough to prevent awkward and inconsistent word spacing.

Serif & sans serif…

While some of the differences between serif text fonts seem almost insignificant when single words are isolated, each of these fonts has a distinct look and feel when applied to extended copy. Some look more (or less) modern, formal, or just better than others in
a given situation. Having a wide variety of serif text faces to choose from means that you’ll be able to most effectively convey the intended message of any publication or document.

Serif type is more readable and is best for text; sans serif type is more legible and is best used for headlines.

Combining typefaces…

Unless you have a background in graphic design and typography, never combine more than two typefaces on the same page.
Never combine two serif fonts on the same page, and never combine two sans serif fonts on the same page.

 

The rules are adapted from “The Mac is Not a Typewriter”, by Robin Williams, Pearson Education, ISBN-13: 978-0938151319