justified textIf you use it, also use hyphenation

Jus­ti­fied text is spaced so the left and right sides of the text block both have a straight edge. The usual al­ter­na­tive to jus­ti­fied text is left-aligned text, which has a straight left edge and an un­even right edge. Com­pared to left-aligned text, jus­ti­fi­ca­tion gives text a cleaner, more for­mal look.

Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion works by adding white space be­tween the words in each line so all the lines are the same length. This al­ters the ideal spac­ing of the font, but in para­graphs of rea­son­able width it’s usu­ally not distracting.

If you’re us­ing jus­ti­fied text, you must also turn on hy­phen­ation so you don’t get grue­somely large spaces be­tween words, as shown in the ex­am­ple below.

Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is a mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence. It is not a sig­ni­fier of pro­fes­sional ty­pog­ra­phy. True, most (but not all) books jus­tify the text. But most ma­jor US news­pa­pers use a mix of jus­ti­fied and left-aligned text. Same with magazines.

Keep in mind that the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion en­gine of a word proces­sor or web browser is rudi­men­tary com­pared to that of a pro­fes­sional page-lay­out pro­gram. So if I’m mak­ing a word-proces­sor doc­u­ment or web page, I’ll al­ways left-align the text, be­cause jus­ti­fi­ca­tion can look clunky and coarse. Whereas if I’m us­ing a pro­fes­sional lay­out pro­gram, I might justify.

But the choice is yours.

by the way
  • If you’re us­ing jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in a high-end page-lay­out pro­gram, you’ll have the choice of dis­trib­ut­ing the ex­tra space in each line be­tween words or be­tween let­ters (or some com­bi­na­tion). Please—put it be­tween the words. Type de­sign­ers spend a lot of time get­ting the spac­ing be­tween char­ac­ters right. (Some of us would even say spac­ing is the essence of type de­sign.) If your char­ac­ter spac­ing is chang­ing from line to line, your jus­ti­fied text block will look hor­ri­ble. For an­other in­stance of this prob­lem, see met­rics vs. op­ti­cal spac­ing.

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