These are rules of thumb about typography that you may find helpful.

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Speed up reading by using an optimum column width of 39 to 52 characters.

Implement general rules about body copy by using a minimum of 9 point type and a maximum of 14 point type (depending on age and reading skills of the audience and physical size of the piece). Leading should be 2 points more than the point size of the type (e.g., 9 point type, 11 point leading).

When using more than one type face, make sure they are very different (e.g., Kuenstler (fancy script) and Helvetica (sans-serif). See title above).

Avoid using more than two different type families in one project, but then again...

Safely use one typeface with two different styles (e.g., use a light or regular weight with a bold or extra bold weighted font). Try to skip a weight (e.g., light and bold vs. light and medium). When you can't skip a weight increase the size of the heavier font.

Never use all caps for body copy - in the immortal words of Nancy Reagan, just say NO!

Never use all caps with highly decorative typefaces (e.g., Zapf Chancery, Kuenstler).

Use rules rather than the underline style, which runs through the descenders of lowercase letters. Set rules to clear the descenders by a least 2 pts.

Hyphenation, Orphans, and Widows

Avoid hyphenating more than two consecutive lines.

Don't leave orphans! (a word or short line at the top of a column or page).

Avoid widows! (a single word on a line by itself at the end of a paragraph with no one to love).

Never hyphenate a widow. For that matter, never hyphenate an orphaned widow! (typographic counseling is recommended for individuals with this problem)

Justification | Top

Don't use a short line width with justified text. You get large rivers through your text. A river is a large gap between words that run throughout a block of text and looks very funky.

Use justified text to be more formal (the left and right margins are parallel)

Take care when using justified text. Ensure the column width, the size of the type, and the number of characters per line don't leave big gaps between words.

Left justified ragged right is more personal (left margin aligns and the right margin ends at different places depending on the characters/words in the line).

Adjust centered and right-aligned type, use soft returns (keeps lines within the same paragraph) to force line breaks when necessary to make the line lengths noticeably different.

Take care when shaping the text around a graphic. With text wrap, justified text gives a better over-all look, but be careful of big gaps between words. Text wrap requires extra work to make it look good including editing the copy.

Kerning and Spacing

Look for visual gaps between letters or numbers that may occur because of the shapes of the adjacent letters (AT, AV, Te, Wa, 11, etc.). To correct this visual anomaly, known in the trade as ca-ca type, use kerning. Kerning is the removal of incremental space between the offending pair.

Kern type so that the white space between characters is visually equalized. Take the first three letters and visually center the second letter between the first and third letters. Do this for all letters in the word until there are no irregular gaps between letters.

Standardize vertical spacing as much as possible (e.g., spacing between headlines and text, before and after subheads, between paragraphs).

Reduce wordspace and tracking (letter spacing) carefully. If the words or letters are too close together they become difficult to read.

Proofing | Top

Always have someone who did not write the copy, edit the copy. See Re-Vision for some great ideas on how to zip up your text.

Always proof your copy for misspelled words.

Always have another person (hopefully literate) proof for typos and inconsistencies in style. It's very easy to overlook your own mistakes - just like in life.

Remember, spell checkers only catch about 90% of the mistakes.

Remember, spell checkers only check for spelling, not meaning (e.g., two, too, to or even tutu).

Don't forget that one misspelled word can undermine the credibility of the entire piece.

Text on Background | Top

Be careful when reversing type, white or light color, out of a background. Ensure that the type is big and bold enough, minimum point size should be 14 points and the type style should be bold. Avoid delicate serif fonts. Avoid ornate patterns. Avoid four-color photographs if the material is going to be printed.

Make sure you have enough visual separation between the type and the background. When reversing copy the minimum gray value should be 40%.

Use color and type carefully. Contrast, separation, and vibration are all important issues that effect readability.

That's All...Isn't It?

Check and adjust letter spacing and word spacing within lines, specifically for large gaps between words or letters; then paragraph, column, and page breaks in terms of:
Hyphenation zones
Ragged right text
Right justified text
Widows and orphans

Site Map | Rules of Thumb | On-Line Resources | Writing | Glossary | Quotes | WordList | Gallery | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa

E-Mail Doug at or Melissa at