THE NON-DESIGNER'S TYPE BOOK
Caps vs. lowercase
Text set in all capital letters (all caps) is more difficult to read. We don't
read letter by letter—we read in phrases. When you see a word, you don't
sound it out letter by letter, do you? No, you glance at the word, recognize
it, and move on. A significant factor in our recognition of whole words at
a time is the shape of the word. But when words are set in all caps, every
word has a rectangular shape and we have to go back to reading the letters.
Now, although ah caps are definitely more difficult to read, especially when
there is a lot of text, sometimes you want the rectangular shapes of all caps.
If that is an appropriate solution for your piece, do it freely. Just keep in
mind that you are making a choice to exchange better readability for a
design choice—sometimes it's worth it.
Temper this decision with the purpose of your piece. If you really need
strength in readability, as in extended text (or in the case of all caps, more
than ten words), or if you want people to be able to browse quickly as in
catalog headings, a parts fist, the phone book, a fist of names and addresses,
headlines, a table of contents, then don't use all caps!
gommai [Poppai ISisîëf] [Brotriêrl
MOMMA POPPA SISTER BROTHER
You can see how the shapes of the words in lowercase are so different
from each other, helping us identify them. In all caps, all words have
the same shape.
Is this word Momma, Poppa, Sister, or Brother?
Does this shape represent the word cat, dog, or garbage? I I
2 : THE ART OF READABILITY
and word spacing
Again, since we read in phrases, uneven letter and word spacing disturbs
our natural reading pattern; our eyes have to make constant adjustments
between words. Spacing that is consistently too close or too far apart also
disturbs our reading. There is no perfect rule that will fix the spacing for
every typeface and every project—you must simply learn to see more
clearly and then trust your eyes. If it looks like the words are too close
together, they are. If it looks like the letters are too far apart, they are. Once
you recognize appropriate and inappropriate spacing, you have the respon¬
sibility of learning exactly how your particular software controls the letter
and word spacing. Ha! Read that manual.
Many script faces have connecting letters that need slightly tighter
letter spacing so their letters will actually connect, but they also often need
extra word spacing because the tails of the letters bump into the spaces
between the words. Again, I cannot emphasize enough that you need to
know how to control the spacing in your page layout application! (Most
word processors do not have features to control the letter spacing.)
You are guaranteed to get terrible word spacing if you justify text in a
narrow column, so don't do it. How do you know if it's too narrow? Read
the following page.
3l isnt what 3 do, kit now S do it.
3t isn t what S sau, but now S sail it.
eAnd now S took when S do it and sau it.
So which one of the lines above is too tight? Which one has too much
word space? Which one looks okay? See how good you are at this already?
Trust your eyes.