What is Typography?
Defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as the”style and appearance of printed matter,” typography is an important point for anyone wishing to publish to consider. Whatever their medium; from website blogs and ebooks to magazines and trade paperback books, the way writing is displayed is just as important as the content. Wikipedia explains typography as…
…the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing, letter-spacing, and adjusting the space within letters pairs.¹
That can all sound rather complicated, especially if all you want is to make your assignment paper look professional, or for your curriculum vitae to truly stand out. And with many hundreds of different fonts to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Help is at hand! Here are several steps you can take to help your text look its best.
- Stop being the writer; imagine you’re the reader. How would you like writing to look, if you were the one reading it? Is there a specific mood or opinion you’d like to impress on your reader? Keep this in mind when choosing your fonts.
- Give the text space to breathe. Crowded writing is tiring to read. Make sure you allow enough “white space” between lines of text and around headings. Margins are also an important consideration—especially in the printed form—since they provide both a plain frame and an area for your readers to hold your work.
- Remember, formatting rules depend on your medium. You probably wouldn’t read novel which looked like a magazine, and rightly so. Your decisions for spacing, font choice, indentations and word flow all depend on your chosen medium. Play to its strengths.
- Limit yourself. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the choice of fonts available, and the temptation to use several of your favourites follows swiftly behind. Do not give in to that temptation. As a general rule, the fewer fonts you are working with, the better the text will look. Choosing a different style for headings is perfectly fine, but aim to have as few as is reasonably possible.
- Choose appropriate fonts. Fonts are designed for a specific purpose; bear this in mind whilst browsing through font lists. I will be going into greater detail on font choices in my follow-up posts.
- If in doubt, get help. All the advice is the world is great, but if you’ve hit a problem or just can’t quite get things to look they way you want, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. There are a multitude of individuals and companies alike (myself included) who will assist in formatting your text. It is worth shopping around to find someone who suits both your style and budget.