Citations for ragged (natural) right margin?

Subject: Citations for ragged (natural) right margin?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2005 14:13:22 -0400

Dan Goldstein reports: <<Leah Guren posted the following to the Techshoret list about two years ago: "All usability data shows overwhelming that a ragged (natural) right makes it easier to read and follow the text. Some of the research dates to the mid-70s (Hartely & Burnhill, Designing Instruction Text), but the most compelling data came from Marlana Coe (UCLA) and E.R. Misanchuk in several different studies done in the 90s.">>

I rarely disagree with Leah, but I have to say that this statement is nonsense as written. It's true in the absolute sense only if you restrict your discussion to full justification without hyphenation, where you can end up with horrible rivers, and it's arguably true if the context is (as noted in the quoted excerpt) early-90s automated justification in Word and other word processors.

But I defy anyone to produce a well-controlled study in which properly typeset justified text is significantly more difficult to read than the ragged-right equivalent. All the studies I have seen compared apples and oranges, and the differences were statistically but not practically significant when the justified text was set by someone who understood typography.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Citations for ragged (natural) right margin: From: Dan Goldstein

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