Monday, 17 October 2011

I'll Put That Bit There ... Part 1

I've received a couple of queries recently about manuscript layout, particularly for magazines, so I thought this was something I'd look at again over the next few posts.

The key point I want to make here is that you are the writer, not the page layout designer. Think of yourself as the content supplier, not the designer.

Left/Right Justification
Joseline recently emailed enquiring whether text should be left and right justified, as it often is in published books and magazines.

First of all, here are some justification examples:

This is LEFT justified text. Notice how, when text is spread over several lines, it has a straight edge down the left hand side of the page/screen, but the text on the right has a 'ragged' edge, with variable amounts of white space between the last word on the line and the edge of the page/screen. The amount of white space depends upon the size of the following word, which is too big to fit on the previous line.


This is RIGHT justified text. Here, when text is spread over several lines, it has a straight edge down the right hand side of the page/screen, but the text on the left has a 'ragged' edge, with some white space between the edge of the page/screen and the first word on the line. 

This is BOTH LEFT AND RIGHT justified text. This time, the text has a straight edge down the left and right hand side of the page/screen. This is how many books are published and how many magazine text columns are aligned. It looks neater. However, it also s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s the text across the page, inserting extra spaces and gaps between words to ensure that both sides of the page have a straight edge.

Because left AND right justified text has extra spaces to ensure both sides of the text have straight edges, this reduces the number of words on a page. Another problem this creates is that it adds extra 'hidden' characters in the text (a space is still a character, even though you can't 'see' it), which can cause problems when your text is copied from your word-processing document and imported into the publication's magazine layout software (such as Quark, Adobe Indesign). And then some poor person at the magazine has to sit there and delete all of the hidden characters.

So, all you need to do is LEFT JUSTIFY your text only.

You can also centre your text.
This is acceptable for titles ...
... BUT NOT YOUR WHOLE TEXT!

In Part 2, I'll look at paragraphing - should you indent, or use block paragraphs? And I'll try to explain why some magazines prefer indented paragraphs, when others prefer block paragraphs.

Good luck!

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