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.
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.
Good typography is part of good writing.
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.
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 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.