Details Part 6
Although most software has a spell check facility, it is advisable to own a good up-to-date dictionary and Roget’s thesaurus. My recommendation is that your text should aim to be consistent in its spelling – as a challenge to this the English language offers many alternate spellings for words (eg judgement or judgment). Some words can end in both -ise and -ize (eg organize or organise) although there are words that end in -ise that don’t end in -ize (eg televise ) – it is therefore preferable if wishing to be consistent to adopt –ise endings. You should always be aware of common mistakes made in the use of words that have a similar spelling but a different meaning (eg forward and foreword or stationary and stationery). See video featuring Edward Rondthaler who died aged 104 in August 2009. He was 102 in this video.
Excessive use of the full point can give the text a very spotty appearance, which isn’t particularly attractive. I would reserve the full point for use solely at the end of a sentence and avoid using it between initials, after contractions (eg Mr or Dr) and abbreviations.
I would avoid abbreviating words – it is advisable always to spell out words where possible.
My recommendation is again for these to be used consistently. Single quotes can be used throughout, reserving double quotes for quotes within quotes. Smart quotes unlike machine quotes are those that have been specifically designed for the particular font one might be using. Whether using single/double quotes or apostrophes you must always use the quote marks designed for the face. On a Macintosh a single open quote (‘) is achieved by typing a closed square bracket (]) while holding the option key; a single closed quote or apostrophe (’) is achieved by typing a closed square bracket while holding the option and shift key. If you wish to access the double quotes then one does exactly the same as above except one types the open square bracket ([). To avoid this laborious process you can switch on the smart quotes function within most software programmes.
Commas should be used sparingly, and in pairs where they mark out a phrase in parenthesis.
Copy should not become cluttered with excessive use of unnecessary capitals. Capitals should be used at the start of a sentence, for proper names and to differentiate fine shades of meaning (eg the church (building) the Church (the institution)). Words are recognized by their shape – words set in capitals are less distinct as they appear to be rectangles. Layouts that employ a large amount of words set in capitals can look very blocky.
Sir Winston Churchill once said, ‘regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided where possible’. It can be eliminated by allowing the two words to stand separately (motor car) or by running them together (motorcar). Prefixes can frequently dispense with the hyphen (eg subsection). Hyphens can be used where they help to clarify ambiguous conjunctions (eg a coop could become a hen run without a hyphen). The hyphen should remain in those words where removal would add to confusion (eg re-adjust to the unwary eye could become read just).
Italics can be used for the names of books, journals, films, plays and paintings. Names of articles in journals, chapter titles and short poems are set as roman in quotes.
The six posts on typographic detailing contained in this blog have not set out to be a definitive guide on the subject. Rather its aim is to alert you to the need for a sensitive and critical attitude when approaching typographic design.
‘Details, Details, Details’ Allan Haley, Upper and Lowercase, Volume 20, Number 4, Spring 1994; ‘A style for the seventies’, Shona Burns, Typographic 10, August 1977; Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography, Ruari McLean; Typographic Design: Form and Communication, Rob Carter, Ben Day and Philip Meggs; Techniques of Typography, Cal Swann; Hart’s rules for compositors and readers at the University Press Oxford; The New Designer’s Handbook, Alastair Campbell; Roget’s Thesaurus; The Concise Oxford English Dictionary; Mind the Stop, G V Carey.