Archive through July 18, 2001

Miss Tiffany's picture

If we are discussing readability of the text set in paragraphs and not headlines or callouts, and not necessarily bothered with the typeface selection:

I think one point that needs to be kept in mind is context of what is being read. If, for instance, I am reading a steamy romance novel or a physical science book I will be deep into the "context" and more than likely will be able to guess what will be the rest of the word. Am I wrong? If a word like "microelectronics" is in the paragraph I assume that the context will lead up to and follow this word. I guess if I were to "choose sides" I'd split it "microelec-tronics".

Just thoughts really. This is interesting.

hrant's picture

Context is indeed *very* relevant.
There's a true story of how a patient of Freud's -who desparately wanted to have a child- kept reading the word "stock" as "stork"... This type of stuff happens to me all the time (even though I have no hope of ever getting pregnant :-), and as soon as they happen I spend the next half hour trying to figure out why! For example, I once read the word "Toronto" as "Tomato", and I think it's because the article was about graphic design (noting that Tomato is a famous British design firm). Another time I read the proper name "Perral" as the word "Federal", [maybe] because it was on a highway sign.


Miss Tiffany's picture

And this is the point at which one chooses a more *readable* (enjoyable and/or pleasurable) typeface to assist in the *legibility* (discernable and/or decipherable) of the written text.

But, must the face have long ascenders and descenders? I know a few news/text type designers (dead and alive) that might argue this point. ((I'm not saying I necessarily agree with them.))

Freudian slips. Perhaps that comes from wanting to write the text or at least edit. Are we sometimes too lazy in our reading and guess at the words? This is where context can cause problems I suppose, or rather putting our own assumptions on the text.

hrant's picture

I see you're using the conventional meanings
of "legbility" and "readability", and I agree
that aesthetics and functionality are often at
odds (in fact, I might say they're inherently
so). But I've concluded that there are two main
types of reading, and that distinction leads
to a bunch of interesting realizations.

For example, fonts meant for continuous reading
need more generous extenders than fonts meant
for signage. This is because during immersive
reading we try to read *words*, not letters,
and this ties in (in part) to the way our
retinas are "built". Esoteric, but true.

Dwiggins was one designer who didn't appreciated
this fact, even though I think he was a really
*brilliant* designer in other respects.

Interesting point about wanting to write/edit.

Guessing: "That's a feature, not a bug."
Our brain guesses, because it can do it well
enough that it speeds up reading. In fact,
guessing is at the heart of reading, if you
think about it. Not as much when reading
individual letters, but certainly during
immersive reading.


editor's picture

Context taken ad absurdum:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Nick Shinn's picture

Content somewhat stale.

hrant's picture

Good typographic threads never die - they get revived. :-)


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