These 26 key rules from Butterick’s Practical Typography might be the most useful listicle I’ve seen in years. A sample:
- The four most important typographic choices you make in any document are point size, line spacing, line length, and font (passim), because those choices determine how thebody text looks.
- point size should be 10–12 points in printed documents, 15-25 pixels on the web.
- line spacing should be 120–145% of the point size.
- The average line length should be 45–90 characters (including spaces).
- The easiest and most visible improvement you can make to your typography is to use a professional font, like those found in font recommendations.
- Avoid goofy fonts, monospaced fonts, and system fonts, especially times new roman and Arial.
My number one rule for this blog is “Pick a template and don’t deviate” since I figure someone much better at this than me spent a lot of time thinking about how it should look.
Because I learned to type on a manual typewriter back in the dark ages I’ve been doing the period-space thing all wrong for 30 years and didn’t know it:
Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including theModern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)
The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.
I hereby officially apologize to every design professional upon whom I’ve inflicted my double-spaced prose.