Line length

Subject: Line length
From: Emily Skarzenski <eskarzenski -at- DTTUS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 15:04:50 CST

People have been wondering about optimal line lengths and what
constitutes an alphabet used for measurement (as in "two alphabets
long").

Some of you may remember my posts from a few weeks ago regarding the
book _Type & Layout_, by Colin Wheildon. It contains the results of a
nine-year study he conducted to explore the effects of typographical
and design elements on reader comprehension.

In his study, Wheildon found that the optimum range for line length
was between 20 and 60 characters. His actual observations:

-- 38% of readers found body type set wider than 60 characters hard
to read. A further 22% indicated they probably wouldn't read wide
measure body type even though they didn't find any difficulty
reading it.

-- 87% said they found extremely narrow measure, such as less than
20 characters, hard to read.

Since his study used printed articles, the characters referred to
would be a mix of uppercase, lowercase, spaces, and punctuation.

In unrelated news...

Microsoft uses a line length of about 80 characters (mixed) in their
manuals. The running text column is about 4.75", or about 28.5 picas,
of 10- or 11-point type.

Where I work, we emulate much of Microsoft's style in print. Our line
length is a bit shorter, however, at about 65-70 characters (mixed).


Emily Skarzenski
Deloitte & Touche/ICS - Chadds Ford, PA
eskarzenski -at- dttus -dot- com


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