Re: Clarification on Text Styles

Subject: Re: Clarification on Text Styles
From: STaylor <sntaylor -at- STARTEXT -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 21:48:29 -0600

In my last note about only 2 faces, I meant two faces. But it max's out to
3 text styles. I like the clean look.


At 08:42 AM 12/12/97 -0500, you wrote:
>Hi folks,
>I've sure appreciated the responses to my trolling for discussion on
>multiple text styles. However, it's evident that a little clarification
>might be in order.
>First, some definitions:
>Text styles refer to the type face, point size, leading, indentation and
>font of text. <Arial, 12 pt, 6 pt above, 6 pt below, flush left, regular>
>would be a text style, just as we see in Word or Wordperfect style sheets.
>Type faces are the font family -- Arial, Times New Roman, Garamond, Bodoni,
>Mistral, and so on.
>Fonts are the collections of individual letters within a type face,
>so-named from the old days of hand-setting of lead type when the individual
>metal letters were kept in partitioned trays called "fonts". A font is a
>set of letters of one type face or size. Arial Bold 12 pt is a font; so is
>Arial Italic 10 pt. That's why you can buy 600 fonts on a disk and only get
>about 40 type faces.
>Leading ("ledding") refers to the spacing between lines of type. After the
>typesetters laid down a line of type, they'd add a strip of lead in the
>appropriate point size underneath to provide spacing between that line and
>the next.
>Quite a few folks wrote and cautioned against "ransom-note" publishing -- a
>kindergarten publisher's error. (Oooh - Let's use Rockabilly for our
>headings!!). Thanks, but my concern goes much deeper than that. This
>affects a "standard" practice among technical writers/publishers.
>There is widespread use, among software manual writers, of different text
>styles, apart from headings and body text, to indicate each of: what the
>user types in, what the computer responds with, what code looks like,
>possible error messages, and more. In a long document with meaty paragraphs
>and few bulleted or numbered sections, it doesn't look that bad. The
>thinking has been that users need the visual cues to differentiate between,
>say, the name of a menu item and what they type in. You might have a line
>that reads something like: "Click File / Open, type in
>c:\directory\filename, click OK and you will see your document Filename in
>the Editor window." File / Open might be in Arial bold;
>c:\directory/filename in Times bold italic; OK in Arial bold; and Filename
>in Times bold.
>These text styles are the conventions used in the manual to "help" the user
>distinguish among interface and procedural elements.
>I'm proposing that it is not at all necessary. In the example sentence I
>just gave you, the multiple type styles are certainly overkill. But I see
>it time and again. On the surface, different type styles seems like a good
>idea, but what looks fine in the "conventions" section can back you into a
>corner when to remain consistent you have to use all of those type styles
>in one sentence or on one small page. The manual I reviewed yesterday had
>11 type styles on one 9 x 6" page! And this HELPS the user? I think not.
>I've stopped doing it. The "Conventions Used in this Manual" section of our
>user guides is GONE. Instead, I use more white space (leading and
>indentation). I still use a sans serif type face for headings, and a serif
>type face for body text. Italics and bold are used *sparingly* for
>emphasis. I use rules (that's "lines" for the typographically-challenged),
>callouts and boxes where appropriate.
>How about the rest of you software writers?
>Beth Agnew
>Senior Technical Writer, InSystems Technologies Inc.
>65 Allstate Parkway, Suite 100 Tel: (905) 513-1400 ext. 280
>Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 9X1 Fax: (905) 513-1419
>mailto:bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com Visit us at:
>See my friendly face at:
>, or

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