Clean Shaven or Rugged: Justified vs. Ragged Type

Because centered alignment and right alignment have limited applications when it comes to continuous text, we are essentially concerned with the pros and cons of using Left or Left Justified type, and the main difference between themwhat happens to the leftover space. On every line of type there will be leftover spaceunless, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, you're just typing the same line over and over. With Justified type the extra space is distributed between the words and varied to give you lines that are exactly the same width. With left-aligned type, the extra space is added at the end of the line, giving you lines of varying width.

Left-aligned type has the following characteristics:

  • Consistent word spacing.

  • Asymmetry. The ragged margin adds shape and interestas well as white spaceto what would otherwise by a rectangular block.

  • Informal. The differing line lengths can give a casual feel.

Justified type has the following characteristics:

  • Economical. You get more words on your page when you justify your text. The difference may be insignificant with a short document, but in a magazine or book your document may be several pages shorter.

  • Symmetrical. Columns with smooth edges can make your document seem balanced.

  • Formal. The uniformity of the smooth right-hand margin can cause your text to be perceived as more formal, which, depending on the text, may be a good or a bad thing.