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I just tested this by making all my body text fully justified--don't
want to do that with lists as the inter-word spacing could be huge.
For a FrameMaker file, a chapter in my book, I saw no change in page
count. The reality in this case is that numbered lists, the occasional
note, the many graphics, and other factors absorb any significant
efficiency of justified text.
Also, with regard to readability, don't you find that varying the space
between words, even over a 5-inch text column, leads to the space
between sentences becoming hidden ... and the full stop being less
noticeable ... so perhaps (the dreaded) two spaces between sentences
Still, all anecdotal really.
From: techwr-l-bounces+sbrierley=accu-time -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+sbrierley=accu-time -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On
Behalf Of Geoff Hart
Sent: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:01 AM
To: TECHWR-L List; David Downing
Subject: Justified versus ragged right? (take II)
David Downing wondered: <<Seems as of every time this question comes
up, everyone is unanimous in preferring ragged right for all the
reasons that have been given, which prompts me to ask two questions:>>
You're misreading the responses: First, they're not unanimous. I
prefer full justification. Second, most respondents were reporting
what they've been told is a "best practice", not stating their
preference. Apples and oranges...
<<First, is there, in fact, any argument to defend justified text,
other than the fact that it makes for a nice, neat block on the page?>>
The nice, neat block does facilitate reading because it forms a
consistent, standard right margin at which your eyes stop scanning
and jump back to the left margin. With ragged right, that position
varies, leading to over- and underscanning and a bit more cognitive
effort. The difference is statistically significant, but does not
appear to be practically significant. I know that I've read a well-
designed study that reported this, many years ago, but it would be a
royal PITA to dig it out... unless it's in Schriver's book.
More to the point, in the absence of any significant demonstrated
difference between ragged-right and fully-justified text (both
typeset skillfully), the decision comes down to one of esthetics ---
that is, to personal choice. Some designers prefer a tidy, neat
margin; others find that boring and prefer something more irregular.
<<Second, how did justified text get to be the standard for published
Because full-justification is significantly more space-efficient, all
else being equal, and is thus cheaper to print for long books and
large print runs. Think of it this way (all numbers purely
hypothetical): even if you allow hyphenation with ragged-right text
(not everyone does), you're creating 2 to 5 characters of blank space
per line (call it 4 for convenience). If you don't allow hyphenation,
or are too lazy or too deadline-crazed to ensure proper word breaks,
you create even more white space. Multiply that by the number of
lines per page (call it 25 for convenience), and you're losing 100
characters per page -- about 20 words. This means that for every 25
pages of ragged-right text, you require an additional page. For a 500
page manual, that's 20 extra pages you have to print -- about a 4%
Again, let me emphasize that these numbers are purely hypothetical
and presented solely for ease of calculation. Fully justified text
won't use all those blank spaces either, and the actual numbers will
vary greatly among designers and designs. But the overall point is
valid: you'll pay more to print the book with ragged-right text.
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