Basic Book Design/Justification

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Keep Out Of Trouble Rules[edit | edit source]

Use justified paragraphs.

Justified text has even left and right margins. Unjustified text has an even left margin and a "ragged right" margin.

This paragraph is justified. This sentence is in a justified paragraph. This sentence is also in a justified paragraph. This sentence is—you guessed it!—also in a justified paragraph.
This paragraph is ragged right. This sen-tence is in a ragged right paragraph. This sentence is also in a ragged right para-graph. This sentence is—you guessed it!—also in a ragged right paragraph.

Typeset books use justified text. Justified text looks nicer. Readers are used to reading justified text, so justified text is easier to read.

"Ragged right" text improves retention. I.e., if you want readers to remember what you wrote, and especially to return and find items they'd read earlier, use of "ragged right" may be justified (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun). Just as readers recognize words by their shape, they also remember ideas by the shape of the paragraph.

"Ragged right" text should be used in one other situation. If the column is very narrow, or the font size is very big, or the words are very long (e.g., website URLs), justified text can produce huge white spaces between words, called open lines. Open lines are a sign of amateur typesetting.

Instead, set a website URL centered on its own line. If you're forced to use a narrow column (e.g., flowing text around an illustra-tion), look at it both justified and "ragged right," and choose what looks best.

Text is always justified by increasing white space between words, never between letters within words. The latter (called letterspacing) would make word shapes difficult to recognize. Text should always be justified by adding equal amounts of space between all words on a line. Early word processors (in the 1980s) put two spaces between some words and one space between other words. That looked awful.