Introduction

If you work with in­for­ma­tion and ideas, then writ­ing plays a cen­tral role in your pro­fes­sional life.

You might be a pro­gram­mer, writ­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion for a new soft­ware tool.

You might be a sci­en­tist, writ­ing a pro­posal for a re­search grant.

You might be a law­yer, writ­ing a brief for court.

When we think ofpro­fes­sional writ­ers,” maybe we think of nov­el­ists or jour­nal­ists. But the pro­gram­mer, the sci­en­tist, the law­yer—and you, if your work de­pends on pre­sent­ing writ­ten ideas—all de­serve to be called pro­fes­sional writers.

But as pro­fes­sional writ­ers, we do more than write. We edit, we for­mat, we print, we gen­er­ate PDFs, we make web pages. More than ever, we’re re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­er­ing the writ­ten word to our read­ers. So we’re not just writ­ers—we’re publishers.

Ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the writ­ten word. And be­ing a pub­lisher of the writ­ten word nec­es­sar­ily means be­ing a ty­pog­rapher.

This book will make you a bet­ter typographer.

I’m not here to tell you that ty­pog­ra­phy is more im­por­tant than the sub­stance of your writ­ing. It’s not.

But ty­pog­ra­phy can op­ti­mize your writ­ing. Ty­pog­ra­phy can cre­ate a bet­ter first im­pres­sion. Ty­pog­ra­phy can re­in­force your key points. Ty­pog­ra­phy can ex­tend reader at­ten­tion. When you ig­nore ty­pog­ra­phy, you’re ig­nor­ing an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of your writing.

And isn’t that why you write? To have an ef­fect on read­ers? To move them, to per­suade them, to spur them to action?

If so, then you should want what ty­pog­ra­phy has to of­fer. Best of all, it’s fast and it’s easy. Un­like, say, learn­ing to be a bet­ter writer. (Skep­ti­cal? Have a look at ty­pog­ra­phy in ten min­utes.)

This book is based on three principles.

  1. Good ty­pog­ra­phy is part of good writing.

  2. As a pro­fes­sional writer, you should hold your doc­u­ments to the same stan­dards as pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished ma­te­r­ial. Why? Be­cause your doc­u­ments are pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished material.

    More­over, much of what writ­ers con­sider proper ty­pog­ra­phy is an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of bad habits and ur­ban leg­ends. These will be set aside in fa­vor of pro­fes­sional ty­po­graphic habits.

  3. Any writer can mas­ter the es­sen­tials of good typography.

The first chap­ter, Why ty­pog­ra­phy mat­ters, ex­plains what ty­pog­ra­phy is and why you should care.

The next two chap­ters cover ty­po­graphic rules. Type com­po­si­tion cov­ers the sym­bols and char­ac­ters avail­able on the key­board. Text for­mat­ting cov­ers the ap­pear­ance of char­ac­ters and text.

Next, font rec­om­men­da­tions in­tro­duces you to the se­cret weapon of the world’s best ty­pog­ra­phers—pro­fes­sional fonts.

Af­ter these foun­da­tional top­ics, Page lay­out cov­ers the broader is­sues that sur­face when putting doc­u­ments together.

The last chap­ter, sam­ple doc­u­ments, brings every­thing to­gether by work­ing through be­fore-and-af­ter ex­am­ples of com­mon doc­u­ment types.

There’s more than one right way to use this book. Some will want to learn every­thing in type com­po­si­tion be­fore mov­ing on to text for­mat­ting. Oth­ers will want to mas­ter the sim­pler, early rules in each chap­ter be­fore try­ing the later, more ad­vanced rules. Oth­ers will want to re­fer to the book only when a spe­cific ty­po­graphic ques­tion arises.

Re­gard­less of the path you take, the best way to learn ty­pog­ra­phy is to prac­tice. Don’t just read the rules. Find ty­po­graphic prob­lems and solve them.

The ty­po­graphic rules in this book aren’t spe­cific to par­tic­u­lar soft­ware. You can ap­ply these rules in just about any mod­ern page-lay­out pro­gram or word proces­sor. I’ve in­cluded spe­cific tech­ni­cal tips for Mi­crosoft Word 2010 through 2016 (for Win­dows), Mi­crosoft Word 2011 and 2016 (for Mac OS), Ap­ple Pages 5 (for Mac OS), and also HTML/CSS.

But the fo­cus of this book is ty­pog­ra­phy. It’s not in­tended to re­place your soft­ware man­ual or other tech­ni­cal re­sources. So I’ve skipped im­ple­men­ta­tion is­sues that are es­pe­cially ba­sic (such as how to ap­ply bold or italic for­mat­ting) or es­pe­cially com­pli­cated (such as how to im­ple­ment para­graph and char­ac­ter styles).

Writ­ten doc­u­ments lie along a con­tin­uum from more ty­po­graph­i­cally flex­i­ble (e.g., let­ter­head, re­search pa­pers) to less flex­i­ble (e.g., résumés). Not every sug­ges­tion in this book will suit every doc­u­ment. Use your judgment.

What qual­i­fies me to write about ty­pog­ra­phy? I have a vi­sual-arts de­gree from Har­vard, where I learned tra­di­tional let­ter­press print­ing and dig­i­tal font de­sign. Af­ter col­lege, I worked as a font de­signer for the Font Bu­reau and Matthew Carter. I then opened a web­site-de­vel­op­ment stu­dio in San Fran­cisco called Atomic Vi­sion, which even­tu­ally be­came part of Red Hat, an open-source tech­nol­ogy com­pany. A few years later, I went to law school at UCLA. Along the way, I’ve writ­ten fre­quently about text, ty­pog­ra­phy, and re­lated top­ics, in­clud­ing my 2010 book Ty­pog­ra­phy for Lawyers, which is the ba­sis of this book. I also con­tinue to de­sign fonts, in­clud­ing the four used herein—Eq­uity, Con­course, Trip­li­cate, and Ad­vo­cate.

Ty­pog­ra­phy has been a source of en­joy­ment for me for over 20 years. I hope that you also find it re­ward­ing, and that it adds sat­is­fac­tion—and maybe even some fun—to your writing.

—Matthew Butterick