Hack 25 Convey Your Document's Value with Good Design

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Ensure that your document looks good and reads well.

Although content is king, presentation must not be overlooked. Just as you would dress up for a business interview or date, you should take care to dress your content according to its purpose. This should include practical as well as aesthetic considerations.

Your document's design should convey the value and care you have invested in its content. It should complement your content and help the reader understand your work. So, design your document with the same eye you used to craft your content. Research and consult, and consider working with a professional whose work you admire. Once you establish your document's design, apply it consistently.

A highly recommended book on the subject is Marshall Lee's Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production (W.W. Norton).

For online tips about hyphenating words, punctuating sentences, and capitalizing titles, visit the New York University Editing Workshop Syllabus (http://www.nyu.edu/classes/copyXediting/syllabus.html).

Every genre uses established styles that you are expected to follow, so you may already have guidelines to use. Some guidelines are strict (e.g., patent applications), but most leave room for personality and branding (e.g., The Wall Street Journal versus USA Today). Study established works in your genre to learn what your readers generally expect. This is also a good way to find the particular styles you prefer. Think of it as window-shopping for your document's outfit.

3.3.1 I'll Take That Font

Once you have spotted a font you want to use, identifying it can be tricky. If you found it in a book, check the back of the book for a colophon. If you found it in a PDF, check its font properties (File Document Properties . . . Fonts).

An online, intelligent assistant can help identify your font (it is also a fun way to browse fonts):


Or, try the optical font recognition engine at:


Thousands of professional fonts are on the market, so it might be impossible to precisely identify your font sample. Or, if you do identify your font, it might turn out to be too expensive for your budget. In these cases, you often can discover a good substitute. Later, we discuss some convenient and economical sources for fonts.

See some fonts that other people use by visiting the Best Sellers page at http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/bestsellers.html.

To install fonts on Windows, open C:\Windows\Fonts\ or C:\WINNT\Fonts\ in the File Explorer. Select File Install New Font . . . and a dialog opens. Navigate over to the folder where your new fonts are, and their names should appear in the List of Fonts. Select the fonts you want to install and click OK.

Installing Type 1 or OpenType fonts on older Windows systems (NT, 98, or 95) or older Macintosh systems (pre-OS X) requires that you install one of Adobe's ATM products first. ATM Light is freely available from http://www.adobe.com/products/atmlight/main.html.

3.3.2 Free Fonts

The Internet seems awash with free or cheap fonts. Crafting a good font takes hard work, and a bad font can actually create production problems. I advocate using professional fonts from reputable designers and foundries. Consider buying a font pack to bootstrap your font collection economically.

One source for good, free fonts is the Base 35 font package that comes with Ghostscript [Hack #39] . If you installed Ghostscript to C:\gs\gs8.14\, these fonts will be unpacked to C:\gs\fonts\. Another free, professional font family is Bitstream's Vera (http://www.bitstream.com/categories/products/fonts/vera/).

Microsoft made its core TrueType fonts freely distributable. If you don't have them already, you can fetch them from http://corefonts.sf.net.

The venerable Computer Modern fonts are freely available from http://www.ams.org/tex/type1-fonts.html. However, they don't work as expected with popular word processors such as Microsoft Word. Consider purchasing European Modern (http://www.yandy.com/em.htm) instead.

3.3.3 System Fonts

Computer systems come with dozens of useful fonts. However, some might have licensing restrictions that could prevent you from embedding them into your PDF. When you create your PDF and try to embed such a font, Distiller will report the error in its log file. The resulting PDF might use a poor substitute font instead, such as Courier.

TrueType font files include built-in license restriction information; Type 1 font files do not. You mustn't rely on Distiller to enforce restrictions; read the license.

If you want to minimize your PDF's file size, consider using common fonts that you don't need to embed. The Base 14 fonts and some system fonts are available on most computers, so you don't need to pack them into your PDF. See [Hack #43] to learn more.

3.3.4 Bundled Fonts

Some authoring products come with fonts. For example, my Adobe Illustrator 9.0.1 CD has 213 fonts located in its Fonts & ATM\Fonts directory. Even though I asked the Illustrator installer to install fonts, it overlooked these. This same disc includes other goodies, such as clip art and stock photos.

Discover font files on your hard drives and CDs by searching for *.ttf (TrueType or OpenType), *.pfa, *.pfb (Adobe Type 1), or *.otf (OpenType) font files.

3.3.5 Font Packs

The different type foundries offer bulk discounts when you purchase collections of fonts. For example, Adobe offers the Type Basics collection of 65 fonts for $99 (http://www.adobe.com/type/). Visit http://fonts.com and http://www.myfonts.com to learn about the various font packs and CDs on the market.

3.3.6 Typography Tips

Here are some suggestions for formatting your document's text and pages. There are no hard-and-fast rules for good design, so apply these tips judiciously.

  • When using two font families in one document, select one serif family and one sans-serif family, as shown in Figure 3-6. Avoid using more than two font families in one document. Some font families include dozens of fonts; Helvetica has 35 (http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/linotype/helvetica/).

Figure 3-6. One serif family (left) and one sans-serif family (right)

  • Serif body text is easier to read on paper; sans-serif body text is easier to read on-screen. Select a conservative font for long paragraphs so that they are comfortable to read. Headings can be more fanciful.

  • Text size is not the height of any specific letter. Rather, it is a loose measurement of the horizontal space used by a line of text. It is measured in points, and there are 72 points per inch.

    A typical size for body text is 9 or 10 points. For an older audience, 11- or 12-point text is better because it is easier to read. Use 12-point body text in wide columns so that the words-per-line ratio remains reasonable.

  • Activate automatic kerning for your styles, particularly heading styles. Kerning tweaks the spaces between letters so that they look their best as shown in Figure 3-7.

    In Word, add automatic kerning to a style by opening its Modify Style dialog and selecting Format Font . . . Character Spacing. Check the Kerning for Fonts checkbox and click OK.

Figure 3-7. Activating automatic kerning to make text look better

  • Adjust column width and font size so that your body text averages 10 to 14 words per line. For example, text using a 9-point font might fit nicely in a 4-inch-wide column. The same text and font at 10 points might require a 4.5-inch-wide column. Long lines slow down the reader.

  • When you must scale a paragraph to fit into a given, vertical space, adjust its line spacing, as illustrated in Figure 3-8, before adjusting its font size. For example, 11- or 12-point line spacing looks good with a 9-point font. 13-point line spacing looks good with a 10-point font.

    In Word, open your style's Paragraph dialog, set Line Spacing: to Exactly, and enter your desired line point size.

Figure 3-8. Line spacing measured from baseline to baseline

  • When using narrow columns (nine words or fewer per line), consider aligning text to the left instead of using justified alignment. Otherwise, words can end up spaced too far apart, as shown in Figure 3-9.

Figure 3-9. Narrow columns left-aligned (left) and justified (right)

  • Avoid using all-caps or underlines for emphasis; use italic or bold instead. When using a light font, emphasize text using light italic or regular, not bold.

    When you desire an all-caps style, try to find a font designed for that purpose, as shown in Figure 3-10.

Figure 3-10. All-caps or small-caps fonts, which provide good-looking, all-caps styles

3.3.7 Handling Long URLs

Placing URLs in a paragraph can leave you with awkward line lengths. Microsoft Word won't break a URL over two lines, so the preceding line can end up looking too short. Here are some ideas for improving URL formatting. Use page footnotes for URLs

A URL usually references related material and does not contribute to the paragraph's narrative. So, place it in a page footnote, where references traditionally belong. This also makes it easier for readers to quickly find the URL later. Insert Zero-Width Spaces to cue line breaks

The Zero-Width Space (ZWS) is a nonprinting character that tells Microsoft Word where it can break the URL. A natural location for the ZWS is after each slash that follows the domain name. Style the URL text a little differently than the body text, so readers aren't confused by URLs broken over two or more lines.

In Word 2002, insert a ZWS by typing 200b (the Unicode for ZWS) at the insertion point and then pressing Alt-X.

In Word 2000, you can replace slashes with slashes+ZWS using the Find and Replace dialog (Edit Replace . . . ). Set Find What: to /. Enter a slash in Replace With: and then append a ZWS by holding down the Alt key and typing 8203 (200b in decimal) on your keypad.

For handy ZWS Word macros and more information on ZWS, visit http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/Formatting/NoWidthSpace.htm. If you're using a Macintosh, unfortunately this is a much more complicated process. Visit http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/WordMac/Unicode.htm for more information.