page column widths

Subject: page column widths
From: Shannon Ford - Technical Writer <shannon -at- UNIFACE -dot- ALAMEDA -dot- CA -dot- US>
Date: Fri, 17 Jun 1994 13:45:27 -0700

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From: john -at- atrium -dot- com (John Gough)
Message-Id: <9406171514 -dot- AA02134 -at- rocky -dot- atrium -dot- com>
Subject: Re: page column widths
To: shannon -at- uniface -dot- alameda -dot- ca -dot- us (Shannon Ford - Technical Writer)
Date: Fri, 17 Jun 94 10:14:22 CDT
In-Reply-To: <9406162157 -dot- AA36973 -at- uniface -dot- alameda -dot- ca -dot- us>; from "Shannon Ford - Te
chnical Writer" at Jun 16, 94 2:57 pm
X-Mailer: ELM [version 2.3 PL11]
Status: RO

[ Shannon Ford - Technical Writer writes: ]
> In your recent message about resumes you mentioned the ideal column
> width is 1.5 to 2.5 alphabets.
> What is 1.5 alphabet? Can you explain what you mean (briefly) or point
> me to a reference?

An alphabet is the space taken by 26 characters (the ones in the
alphabet). I'm afraid I don't have the reference, but I seem
to remember that more than one researcher came to this conclusion.
Obviously you have to consider more factors when you're desiging
a page layout, but the conclusion at least clues you that full-page
columns are a pain.

Wouldn't it be great, fellow writers, if we had a short summary
of (attributed) research conclusions for handy reference?

The American Institutes for Research once published a report (1979?)
called 'Document Design' that attempted to do that. It covered
several areas and had a summary article and list of references for
each. It was still a book (paperbound, light blue, 8.5 x 11 --
anyone else use it?) We used it as a starting point for research
topics in a writing class.

Admittedly, if the guide fell into the wrong hands it could be
dangerous. :-) Too many people accept research conclusions as
absolute rules, rather food for thought and a nudge in the right
direction as you attempt to solve problems.

Speaking of pat answers to complex questions, InfoMapping came up in a
different thread--my take on it is that it's a handy cooky-cutter
approach that typically non-writers or less-experienced writers get
the most out of.

I wince a little at IMAP's bulldozer approach--'converts' seem to
think that InfoMapping solves *all* of your problems in *all*
situations and leaves your kitchen sparkly fresh, too. But hey, it
gave them more tools to work with than they had before, so the world
is probably a better place for them having taken the course. I've
seen 'before' and 'after' in writing samples, and 'after' is way

Netiquette breach alert--I've given you rambling coverage of two
topics in one (long) post. Whoops. Sorry.

John Gough john -at- atrium -dot- com
Principal Technical Writer voice (512) 328-6977
Atrium Technologies fax (512) 328-2789
Austin, TX

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