Typographical Tips from Microsoft Publisher
The fact that you have come to this website suggests that you are a user of Microsoft Word. In one form or another, Word is ubiquitous. If you buy a new computer, chances are good that it will come with a trial version of Microsoft 365 (which includes Word) installed. Word is a powerful word processing program that incorporates many of the features of a page layout application, but there are times when a page layout or desktop publishing application is what is needed. Many editions of Office/Microsoft 365 include such a program: Microsoft Publisher.
Often Publisher will be better suited to your needs than Word, so it is well worth becoming familiar with it. It is a very user-friendly application, generally aimed at a more casual, less professional level of user than Word. But even if you use only Word, Publisher can be useful to you. Because once upon a time, at least, it came with an excellent manual. The Microsoft Publisher 97 Companion is a 328-page book (compare this to the 19 pages devoted to Publisher in Discovering Microsoft Office 2000 Premium and Professional and the total lack of printed manuals provided with the software today), and it contains much material that can be equally helpful to Word users.
For example, the chapter “The Look of Words” discusses “what fonts are, how to choose them, and how to get the most from them.” The following tips, guidelines, and rules of thumb are excerpted from that chapter. [Comments pertaining specifically to Word are interspersed in brackets. If the order of the text occasionally seems muddled, it is because much of the text was in marginal sidebars in the original; in most cases these sidebars have been indented in the text that follows.]
What’s a font?
A font is all the characters of a single design—that is, a complete set of all the letters in the alphabet, plus numerals and symbols, as shown below.
Each font belongs to a family. Just as the members of a human family have similar but usually not identical features, so do the members of a font family. One font might be italic, another bold, and yet another extra-bold. But they all have a common structure that ties them together. Some font families are large (like Rockwell); others have just one member (like Comic Sans MS).
There are literally thousands of fonts, but designers usually group them into three categories: serif, sans serif, and script.
Fonts are like clothing for words. As a man in a black leather jacket, jeans, and rugged boots conveys a very different image and feeling than he does in a three-piece business suit, silk tie, and Italian shoes, so it is with fonts.
The same words dressed in a different font deliver a very different message. For example, a mischievous, informal font, like the one on the left, can undermine a serious message.
Mixing and matching fonts
Choosing fonts is a lot like planning a wardrobe. You start with some basic fonts that convey the idea and the feeling of your business or organization, and then from time to time you accessorize with fonts appropriate for a particular publication. It also probably goes without saying that the right font means one that you’re comfortable with.
Choosing a basic look
Sometimes one font isn’t compelling enough to pique and hold the reader’s interest. The contrast between two fonts can attract the reader’s eye and help clarify the organization of the piece. For example, designers usually use a different font for body text—the text that forms the main body of the publication—than for headlines (also known as display text). The following rules will help you mix fonts successfully.
As you gain experience mixing fonts, there will be times when you know you’ve broken the rules, but you like what you see anyway. Go with it! It means that you’ve developed your “eye” enough to create your own look.
The look of body text
As its name suggests, body text is the text that forms the main body of your publication. In a newsletter or a book, it’s the story. In a smaller publication, it’s everything that isn’t either a headline or special text like captions and fancy first letters.
Choosing a font for body text
First and foremost, body text must be readable. If the words aren’t readable, you’ve lost your audience. More subtly, pay attention to the emotional impact of the font. In the same way that background music in a movie affects the feeling you have about a scene, the font you choose for body text affects the mood of your publication and the response of your audience to it. Also, depending on how much you have to say and how much space you have to say it in, you might need to consider the compactness of the font. Once you’ve chosen a body font, stick with it throughout your publication; otherwise you can confuse your reader.
We read words by their shapes and not letter by letter, so readable fonts are those that make it easy for the reader’s eye to scan words and lines—to read blocks of text. Serifs give words distinctive shapes that the eye recognizes more easily than it recognizes sans serif shapes. But blocks of sans serif text can be readable as body text, especially when given plenty of white space.
You might not think of black text as having color. But black text combined with white space “colors” the page.
Consider the way the color feels to you and if that’s how you want your readers to feel. A light-colored body text has a soft, calm feeling; dark text is stronger and more emphatic. Take your printer into account, too—if it prints on the dark side, you can compensate by choosing a lighter font.
The number of characters per line varies from one font to another even when the same font size is specified. If you have a lot of information to fit into a small amount of space, choose a compact font.
Formatting body text
You can save yourself a lot of time and effort and easily keep the formatting consistent throughout your publication if you use text styles, particularly if your publication has more than a handful of pages.
Make all body text within a publication the same size—between 10 and 12 points is the norm; smaller text can be difficult to read. Obviously this doesn’t apply if your publication is a poster that’s meant to be read at a distance or a newsletter for people with low vision.
A quick lesson about points, picas, font sizes, and leading
When you’re working in Publisher, it’s helpful to understand typographic measurements and how they’re used. One inch (2.54 centimeters) can be broken down into points and picas, as follows:
It seems simple enough when you use these measurements to determine spacing between lines (leading)—you can easily use a point scale or a pica scale to measure and verify the number of points of spacing between lines on your hard copy.
It can get confusing, though, when you look at font size, which is also described in points (see the “E”s in the graphic below). You might say to yourself, “That 12-point E doesn’t look as if it’s 12 points tall!” And you’d be right—it’s not. Font sizes are measured completely differently than leading, even though they’re both specified in points, and the only way you can verify font size on your hard copy is by measuring it against the designated sizes that you’ll find on an E-scale. Many art-supply stores carry precision rules that combine a pica scale, a point scale, and an E-scale in one handy tool.
Space between characters
You can adjust the spacing of letters, or characters, in your text for a single word or an entire paragraph. [In Word, you can select Expanded or Condensed on the Character Spacing or Advanced tab of the Font dialog.]
Space between sentences
Current publishing convention puts one space, not two, between sentences. You can see the spaces on your screen [in Publisher] by choosing Show Special Characters from the View menu. [For more on displaying nonprinting characters in Word see What do all those funny marks, like the dots between the words in my document, and the square bullets in the left margin, mean?] If you habitually press the spacebar twice at the end of every sentence, you can remedy the situation by using the Replace command from the Edit menu.…
Space between lines
Space between lines is to words what air is to people. Publisher automatically puts some vertical space between single-spaced lines, and in most cases this is adequate. But there will be occasions when you’ll want to fine-tune it. Too little or too much space makes the text hard to read. Following are some suggestions for changing the line spacing while keeping the text readable.
Space between paragraphs
Just as you add a space after the period to separate sentences, you must signal where a new paragraph begins. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first method is the most economical, allowing room for more words on the page; the second adds more white space.
Readability is affected by line length. A very general rule is an average of 10 to 12 words per line for a serif font and 8 or 9 for a sans serif font. [Another rule of thumb is approximately 1½ alphabets or between 40 and 60 characters.]
You can change the alignment of selected text in a flash. Simply click one of the alignment buttons on Publisher’s Format toolbar [or Word’s Formatting toolbar or Home tab] —the buttons are shown below next to the descriptions of the four ways to align text:
Flush left. All the lines align on the left margin, with the right edge uneven, or “ragged,” as in this book. This alignment is recommended for most body text because it’s the most readable. [You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+L.]
Flush right. All the lines align on the right margin, with a ragged left edge. The eye struggles to find the beginning of each line, making reading difficult, so this alignment’s uses are limited—for example, right-aligning a caption along the left side of a picture. [The keyboard shortcut for this is Ctrl+R.]
Centered. Text is not easily readable, but works well in short amounts as in invitations and announcements. It also offers a touch of formality. [Press Ctrl+E to center text.]
Justified. Text is aligned on both the left and right margins. Don’t justify text if the lines are short or the font is large; it can create unsightly gaps and slow down reading. (If you do justify text in other circumstances, be sure that Publisher’s automatic hyphenation is turned on.) [Ctrl+J will justify text.]
Well-set type is smooth and rhythmic, and adding emphasis should be done in a subtle way, without disrupting the even texture of the page. You can achieve this if you follow the basic guidelines below.
Punctuation and special characters
Apostrophes and quotation marks
Publisher automatically gives you typographer’s apostrophes ( ’ ) and single ( ‘ ’ ) and double ( “ ” ) quotation marks (often called “smart quotes”), rather than foot ( ' ) or inch ( " ) marks. [Word also does this by default.] If you do want inch or foot marks for measurements now and then, that’s easy, too: simply hold down the ctrl key while you type the quotation mark or apostrophe. [In Word, press Ctrl+Z to reverse the AutoFormat As You Type correction.] These contribute greatly to your publication’s professional look.…If you’ll be typing lots of measurements, it’s easy to turn the smart quotes option off [do this in Word on the AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect Options dialog. Alternatively, you can assign keyboard shortcuts to typographer’s foot and inch marks—the prime ( ′ ) and double-prime ( ″ ) characters found at 0162 and 0178 in the Symbol font and also included in the expanded character set of most Unicode fonts at 2032 and 2033.]
When you put quotation marks around a quote in a large font size, such as a pull quote, hang the quotation marks outside the block of text to keep the text aligned.
There are three kinds of dashes, each a bit longer than the other. You don’t need to put spaces before or after dashes.
Publisher makes it easy to accent letters (café) and to use symbols such as © (copyright) and ™ (trademark). [So does Word. The examples given are actually built-in AutoCorrect entries; for other symbols, see “How can I insert special characters, such as dingbats and accented letters, in my document?”]
Superscript and subscript
Carbon dioxide becomes CO2 when you subscript the 2, and fourth becomes 4th when you superscript the th. [In Word, you can apply these properties through the Font dialog, or you can use the built-in keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl+= for subscript and Ctrl+Shift+= for superscript. An AutoFormat As You Type option, if you have it enabled, automatically superscripts st, nd, rd, and th in ordinal numbers.]
Publisher supplies basic fractions: ¼, ½, and ¾. But if you need others, like 3⅝, Publisher Help can show you how to make them look elegant. [For fractions in Word, see “How to create fractions in Word.”]
The look of display text: headings and headlines
Display text—headings and headlines—is meant to catch the reader’s eye by being distinctive, evocative, and big: as a general rule, display text is larger than 14 points.
However, display text works differently in a publication such as a book or a report than it does in an advertisement in a brochure or magazine. In the former case, the readers are already involved and the display text helps them to see the organization of the publication and to navigate in it. In the latter case, the display text must capture their imagination so that they’ll read the advertisement.
Choosing a display font
Start by playing around—set the headings in different fonts and see how they feel. Display fonts have a big impact on a publication because of their size, so it’s important that they convey the mood you want.
Formatting display text
In Publisher, you can set display text as plain text or you can use WordArt for display text. [WordArt is also available in Word.]
Use plain, unadorned text for publications such as reports, in which display text helps organize the page, or in elegant or formal publications like invitations or awards. Plain text is very legible, which makes it desirable for critical information like road signs or telephone numbers. Plain text also gives you control over the spacing between letters, which is important when letters are set large. You can achieve the contrast you want by relying on a larger size, a heavier weight, or a different font. And finally, you might have fewer printing problems when you use plain text.
Use Publisher WordArt when you want splashy effects to heighten contrast. You can put white text on a black (or colored) background, pour text into a shape, add shadows to letters, or twist and turn text in a variety of ways. [Some of these effects are also available for plain text in Word.] Once you have placed it in your publication, however, you cannot directly edit the WordArt. To make changes, you have to reactivate the WordArt program by double-clicking the WordArt frame. [In recent versions of Word, WordArt is more fully integrated into the program.]
You’ll want to limit the use of WordArt, though, simply because it is so memorable. Too much of it is like having a dinner entirely of desserts or a birthday every day of the year. A maximum of half a dozen words is a good rule.
Size and weight
To generate impact, set main headings between two and four times larger than body text—even five times larger for greater punch. Let your eye be the judge, but headlines that are much larger and darker than body text attract the reader’s attention immediately. [For long documents such as books and reports, headings are not usually so large; in Word 2003 and earlier, default Heading 1 is 14-point Arial, while Body Text is 10- or 12-point Times New Roman; Arial is admittedly heavier than Times, however, with a greater x-height.] You can also use color very effectively in headings. [Word 2007 and above do use color for headings by default.]
Make sure that the size of the heading reflects its importance—the more important the heading, the larger its size. Larger sizes help readers figure out where to look on the page, and smaller subheads pull them along through the story.
In general, there should be less spacing within a headline (between the letters and between the lines if it’s a two-line headline) and more spacing around (but not below) it. This gives the headline cohesiveness and helps it stand out from the body text. [In Word, you can adjust the line spacing in the Paragraph dialog and character spacing on the Character Spacing or Advanced tab of the Font dialog.]
Be judicious in your use of all capital (uppercase or all caps) letters—they’re often not as legible as a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters and they don’t necessarily look more important.
The look of fancy first letters,