Justified vs. ragged right

Subject: Justified vs. ragged right
From: K Watkins <kwatkins -at- QUICKPEN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 1995 15:32:20 EDT

chuck_martin -at- fwb -dot- com writes:

|Recently, I've been discussing the issue of ragged right vs. fully
|justified text with my new manager. She favors justified, while I advocate
|ragged right. I seem to recall learning that ragged right improves
|readability, as well as avoiding the appearance of rivers in the columns.

I know of only two effects of using justified rather than ragged right text:

1) You make the text harder to read. It's not just the rivers, though
they are a problem. As an analogy, consider using all capital letters. The
variation in letter height is important to our ease of reading. Similarly
the variation in line length. I use justified text only under duress.

2) You make a statement about yourself, though it may not be particularly
audible except to people who pay conscious attention to this kind of
question. Those who favor justified text seem to think it gives them a
professional air, perhaps by analogy with mass-market books, many of which
do use justified text. (In 12-point type, on a page the width of a
grocery-store paperback, justified text does little damage to readability.)
But I suspect that, at least in our field, justified text mostly gives you
the air of a novice who is so excited about a computer's ability to produce
justified text that you can't stand to leave it out. An analogy here might
be the hodge-podge of fonts people tend to use when they first have the
opportunity to use more than one.

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