Re: Using Fonts to Flag the Gibberish

Subject: Re: Using Fonts to Flag the Gibberish
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 17:06:17 PST

A seasoned book designer once threatened to murder me if I ever used
two serif fonts on the same line, so I settled on putting all gibberish
in Helvetica, which was not my first choice.

"Gibberish" includes opcodes, signal names, register names, bit fields,
operators, functions, and binary and hexadecimal numbers.

Non-gibberish text is put in a "real" font, preferably a reliable,
not-too-mannered, old-style font such as Sabon, Caslon, or one
of the better Garamonds. Times-Roman will do in a pinch.

The use of two wildly different fonts helps the reader navigate the
sea of jargon. It makes it easier to figure out that deadbeef is
a hexadecimal constant, and that there's a difference between "or"
and "or."

I also like to use upper case for signals and lower case for register
names, bit field names, and commands. That allows you to tell reset
from reset from RESET. (Admittedly, you can't tell the first two
apart NOW, because I'm only using one font.)

Math stuff should follow math usage, which means that variables are
italicized, for one thing.

Captured ASCII text should be in Courier, decently separated from the
body text to prevent me from being murdered. Courier is ugly, but
familiar. The other monospaced fonts are ugly and unfamiliar, which
draws the reader's attention to their ugliness. It's best to expand
all the tabs to spaces in imported ASCII text, to save trouble later.

Book designers are often quite good at juggling this sea of weird
requirements. When in doubt, though, look at a bunch of well-printed
university textbooks in the same field as your manual. University
presses have the necessary expertise to make good decisions.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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