misuse of the term "justify"

I am taking a poll among the cognoscenti here on the proper use of the term "justify" in typography.

Has it become acceptable to use such terms as "justified left," or "left justified"? Does anyone else wince at this?

I was taught many years ago that type can be set centered, justified, flush left or flush right. Those were the only choices. There was no such thing as "justified left" or "justified right." Sometimes we would add "rag right," or "ragged right" to the "flush" direction, or abbreviate "FL/RR," for example. Perhaps the "rag" language has dwindled. Specifying the rag was extra clarification. But in my mind, one should only use "justified" in one way, when both sides of a column are flush. Am I right?

Maybe some younger members can tell us what schools are teaching these days. Do I just have to take a Xanax and accept these mixed terms, or am I justified (heheh) in my indignation on this matter?

J. Tillman's picture

Sullivanj, you are correct about the use of "justified". But I think the term "left aligned" is replacing the term "flush left".

JamesM's picture

I was taught to say "flush left, rag right", and most of the designers I know still say that. But most of my designer friends are middle aged or older, and terminology can change over time. Maybe the younger ones are using different terms.

R.'s picture

There is one context in which I frequently come across terms such as ‘left justified’ or ‘right justified’: These appear as button labels in an obscure little lay-out software called—wait for it!—InDesign. ‘Left justify’, for instance, refers to a justified setting in which the last line is left-aligned (or right-aligned for ‘right justify’ or centred for ‘centre justify’). In other words: These terms do have a meaning, and a useful one to boot. All the more, I would try to avoid calling flush left, ragged right settings ‘left justified’ (or the other way around, ‘justified left’). InDesign, by the way, calls these settings ‘align left’ (and ‘align right’ and ‘align centre’). A setting in which even the last line is spaced out to full column width is called ‘full justify’.

JamesM's picture

I never noticed that before. Here's part of InDesign's Help info (version CS 5.5) discussing alignment:

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