Type crimes don’t only exist in print. You’ll find them on the web and other digital media as well. Any public media that contains type should be adhering to professional standards of good typography. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly on the web. In fact, type crimes are a lot more prevalent on the web, and in any scenario where an experienced graphic designer is not part of the process when posting text. Let’s take a look at five things you should make every attempt to avoid.
Double word spaces
Double spaces between sentences are a well-known type crime in print, but they also appear on the web. The reason for this is many people who write copy, whether they be professional writers, bloggers, business owners and such, are not knowledgeable of proper typesetting practices, as opposed to just ‘typing’. Without a proofreader knowledgeable in typographic practices, major errors such as this go unnoticed and frequently go from the writer to web master to upload, with no one in-between.
Any copy intended for publishing should be proofread for this common and extremely unprofessional type crime. If there is no one in-the-know looking over the copy, as is frequently the case for personal blogs and other WordPress sites, it needs to be checked for this error. The easiest way is to search for two word spaces and replace with one. Then check the copy over carefully to make sure that something else wasn’t deleted by this action that needs to be there. (Read more about double word spaces here.)
Hyphens and dashes
Hyphens and dashes appear with great regularity in all kinds of text. The problem arises when hyphens (or more commonly, two hyphens) are used instead of dashes, a substitution that is considered a major type crime.
Before typing or applying the proper punctuation, one must understand the difference between hyphens and dashes (which can be explained in detail in this article). Once text is properly punctuated, the next task is to understand how to apply this “smart” punctuation to the web and other digital media. Hyphens are not an issue, but on the web, dashes must frequently be coded in order to appear correctly. This is not as complicated as it seems: it frequently just requires a search and replace, inserting the proper code, which can easily be found on the web. If there is a web programmer or web master, this should be pointed out to them and they will do it. But if not, anyone in the process can do this, including the designer, writer, or even you if it is for your own blog. Codes for specific punctuation can easily be found on the web.
It should be noted that some content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, might render the dashes properly if they are in the actual copy. But this automatic insertion needs to be investigated on a case-by-case basis in order to have them appear correctly. In addition, keep in mind that some email marketing services do not support this “smart” punctuation – even if coded in – so note this accordingly.
Quotation marks and primes
In professional typesetting, quotation marks and primes – which are commonly referred to as inch and foot marks – are entirely different glyphs. But unfortunately, most copywriters, business owners, and others are not aware of this. Once again, if one doesn’t’ “type” them in correctly and there is no one to do a typographic proofreading of the copy in order to call out these marks, they frequently appear incorrectly on the web and other digital media, such as movie titles, motion graphics, and the like.
True quotation marks are design sensitive, that is, are different for the open, left designs and the right, closed ones. On the other hand, primes, which are frequently referred to as typewriter quotes, are straight or sometimes slightly angled marks, both of which are not design sensitive. (Read more on these glyphs here.) The problem arises in digital media because even if the quotes appear correctly in the submitted or uploaded text, they will not necessarily appear that way in digital copy. Unless you are using WordPress or a CMS that is set to automatically convert these for you, they will need to be coded into the copy before inserted and upload it into the appropriate medium. I have done this numerous times, and considerate it the responsibility of the person uploading the text. It’s really not that difﬁcult, usually requiring a “search and replace” with the proper code.
As mentioned earlier, problems can arise with certain CMSs as well as email marketing systems which might or might not allow for smart quotes or other speciﬁc smart punctuation, even if you code them. Therefore, be aware of the capabilities of the medium you are uploading to, and deliver or upload the copy accordingly.
Hard line breaks and inter-line hyphenation
There currently is no automatic hyphenation on the web. In addition, one cannot manually control rags and line endings, as type size and style can look different for everyone, depending on platform, device, resolution, as well as the readers’ personal settings. This is important to know because some people who are not aware of this try to correct what they see on their screen with hard line breaks and manual hyphenations. This should be avoided at all costs because it usually results in very deep rags as well as interline hyphenations for some viewers, both results of which are extremely unattractive and unprofessional to boot.
Many people ﬁnd justified text attractive, and/or desirable when used for a speciﬁc layout or design. But the problem on the web as well as some other digital media is that you cannot control the line endings, and therefore have no idea how the justified text will look for each viewer. If the column width is too narrow and the words are too long, justification can frequently result in text with very large or very tight word or letter spaces, all of which are extremely unattractive, and can render the text much less readable.
My advice in general for the web as well as for other digital media that cannot be speciﬁcally controlled is to avoid justiﬁcation entirely and go with flush left or other non-justified settings. This will ensure your text is easy to read for all readers on any device, with appropriate word and letter spacing. (Read more about this topic here.)Tags