unjustified text for a short story

RadioB's picture


I recently bought a small(A6)book, a short story by Mark Twain, and the text in it was unjustified(flush left, ragged right), I'm a recent graduate (read a designer without much experience) and I was wondering why someone would make a decision to do that? and why more people don't, is it easier to read? (it didnt really make a difference to me) I know Jan Tschichold talked about this in 'the new typography' but i cant remember his thoughts regarding book design, I've seen it done in small brouchures for museums but never for a whole book.

oldnick's picture

Unjustified text in the shorter line lengths often found in small brochures makes sense; in a book (or a book-sized short story), it doesn't...

eliason's picture

"In fact, equal length of lines is of its nature not a sine qua non; it is simply one of those things you get if you can: it satisfies our appetite for neat appearance, a laudable appetite, but has become somewhat of a superstition; and it is generally obtained at too great a sacrifice. A book is primarily a thing to be read, and the merely neat appearance of a page of type is of no very great value in itself; it partakes too much of the ideas of those who regard books as things to be looked at rather than read. It is the same superstition as that according to which all Christian churches should be 'gothic'; it is a medievalism. But whereas the medieval scribe obtained his neat square page by the use of a large number of contractions ... & by the frank use of line-fillings -- i.e. he boldly filled up a short line with an ornamental fluorish or illuminated device -- the modern printer obtains his square page only by the sacrifice of one of the most important constituents of readableness, even spacing between words." Eric Gill, Essay on Typography

RadioB's picture

thanks eliason, Gill has a point I guess, I must say it is refreshing to see unjustified text in a book.

JamesM's picture

There are pros and cons both ways.

Full justification creates a more formal look, which in some situations is desirable, and in publications that are printed on thin paper -- as books often are -- the show-through is less distracting if the type is justified. A disadvantage, though, is that justification is achieved by adding extra space between words and this causes inconsistent word spacing, especially if the line length is short.

Flush left rag right is more informal, which again is desirable in some situations, and the spacing between words is more consistent. A disadvantage in books is that show-through can be more distracting when the line lengths are varied.

I think tests have shown that rag right is slightly more readable due to more consistent word spacing, but I don't think it's a significant difference in most situations.

Syndicate content Syndicate content