Re: ISO follies (justifying text)

Subject: Re: ISO follies (justifying text)
From: "Katie Henry" <katie-henry -at- worldnet -dot- att -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 9 Mar 2002 04:18:17 -0500

Steve Hudson wrote:
> Finally (what you originally asked for and no-one has provided yet), a
> reasonable argument against full justification goes like this:
> No novels use it.
> No technical manuals use it.
> No magazines use it.
> Very few newspapers use it anymore.
> Therefore we can conclude:
> People have LITTLE or NO experience with this formatting
> Many professional publishers whose job it is to know such things AVOID it
like the plague.
> CMS doesn't advise it, nor AP or any other PUBLISHED style guide!

Maybe things are different in Australia, but text is fully justified in most
mass-market publications in the US. I just spent an hour digging through my
bookshelves to prove this point.

All of my fiction and text-only nonfiction books (history, biography, etc.)
are fully justified. Some nonfiction books with pictures and complicated
layouts -- such as cookbooks, travel books, or coffee-table books -- are
ragged right (but a lot of them aren't).

Magazines in my house that justify body text: Time, Newsweek, The Economist,
New Yorker, American Heritage, National Geographic, Wine Spectator, Inc.,
Popular Science, Discover, Yoga Journal, Smithsonian, Popular Mechanic, PC
Magazine, Sports Illustrated. (Some use rag-right type for sidebars and
little chatty snippets.)

Magazines in my house that don't justify body text: Kiplinger's Personal
Finance, Psychology Today, FHM (cringe).

Newspapers: The Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all
justify. I believe most US newspapers justify body text and only use rag
right for splashy article introductions on the first page of a section.

I disagree with your interpretation that CMS doesn't advise full
justification. The 13th edition says that "a column of type is
conventionally rectangular, its left and right edges neatly aligned."
However, when working with a short line length, not justifying text is "not
only acceptable but often desirable in bookmaking as in other kinds of
printed materials." Perhaps the 14th edition takes a stronger position
against full justification, but regardless of what they say, you'll notice
that the text in CMS is fully justified. As is Words Into Type. And
Scientific Style and Format (Council of Biology Editors). And Wired Style
(except for the chapter introductions). And all of my dictionaries, my
thesaurus, and Fowler and Follett.

I think tech writers are fond of rag right not because of any great benefit
to the reader but because they are unable or unwilling to manage
hyphenation, which you have to do to get decent-looking justified text.
Sometimes it's because of tool limitations, and sometimes it's the presence
of weird product names and URLs and acronyms that shouldn't be hyphenated,
but it's usually easiest to turn off hyphenation and go rag right.


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RE: ISO follies redux: From: Steve Hudson

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