5 More Typography Mistakes You Can Eliminate

This is a continuation of my earlier post “7 Typography Mistakes You Can Easily Eliminate.” That post garnered quite a few reader comments, including some who pointed out “mistakes” I didn’t include. So I’ve decided to share five more

Remember them? If not, here’s a link to read about the Typewriter — which is exactly why you shouldn’t underline any more.

Why? Because today, it represents a hyper link. When people see one, they think it’s a link that’ll take them to a page on a website. You have better options to highlight text such as bolding, italicizing and using color.

5. Hyphenation

Many non-designers pay little attention to how their text is hyphenated. It can be the difference between “just okay” or good type. Proper hyphenation is crucial for optimum readability. Hyphens can make your copy harder to read, and if too many happen in a paragraph — or worse, several consecutive times in a paragraph — readability suffers even more.

Hyphenated words are sometime a necessary evil. But try to avoid them at all cost. The first and easiest approach: adjust your settings. Most applications default to hyphenate automatically. Instead, set this to “off.” Problem solved.

This might cause a large gap or space in your paragraph rags (the right edge of your text), which is not good typography. The easiest way to fix this? Consider rewriting the sentence first.

If rewriting is not possible, consider an optional or soft hyphen. An optional hyphen is used to control where a word or phrase breaks at the end of a line. When you insert an optional hyphen in a word not at the end of a line, the word will look normal. But if that word appears at the end of a line, it’ll break where you set the soft hyphen.

Why use a soft hyphen? Have you ever manually hyphenated a word and then edit the text early in that paragraph? The manually hyphenated word now shows up in the middle of the page with a hyphen — you now need to remove it. A soft hyphen would automatically remove itself.

In Microsoft Word, you can insert a soft hyphen click in the word where you want to insert the optional hyphen and press CTRL+HYPHEN. Almost all applications have this ability. This is the best way to control your hyphenation at the end of lines.

Here are the basic rules for using hyphens:

  • Don’t have more than two hyphenations in a row.
  • Don’t have too many hyphenated line endings in a single paragraph, even if they’re not in successive rows.
  • Check the “rag” (the right edge of the text) for any glaring holes, words that “stick out” unattractively. A good rag has gentle in-and-out as the eye travels down the text.

In Review …

Don’t center too often.
It makes your text hard to read.
Especially if you have more than
a few lines.

Justified   type     can     be   difficult to read   too   and   if     possible   should   be   avoided.

is a very helpful way to
group your thoughts together.

Underlining will confuse your modern-day reader into thinking there’s an online link attached (and also tell everyone you’re an old-school dinosaur).

Hyphens-are-not-a-good-thing-except when they appear at the end of a line break to help read-ers know that the sentence continues.

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

11 thoughts on “5 More Typography Mistakes You Can Eliminate”

  1. Thank you Patrick, for another clear set of great tips. I will point all the designers and non-designers among my clients to this piece. These may seem basic to people who lived through the desktop publishing revolution, but they’re still news to many keyboard jockeys.

    1. Gordon, OMG, I so hated the term “desktop publishing.” Too many non-designers “got an app” and started doing “desktop publishing” with no training. There was so much bad type back then.

      I’m happy you found these posts on typography worthy enough to share with your designers and non-designers you know. I greatly appreciate the compliment.

  2. Just one comment about justified type. Turn on hyphenation. As someone who started in marketing/advertising as a designer/turned typesetter when my bosses knew I could type 80 words a minute and knew proper rules for same, when I see those huge white spaces you could drive a truck through, I cringe. Just make sure you don’t have multiple lines of hyphenations in a row. I think no more than two. With variable word spacing/letterspacing, you can make this happen. I love beautifully set type, justified, rag right, centered. They all have their place.

    1. lol, one of my favorite phrases to use with typography “drive a truck through.” I do believe that is an official typography term.

      I’ll turn on hyphenation to see what it hyphenates and will use hyphens when I have to to fill those “white spaces.”

      And I whole heartily agree: “Just make sure you don’t have multiple lines of hyphenations in a row.”

      I also love beautifully set type, justified, rag right, centered—the trick is to know when and where the right place is.

      P.S. happy to know there’s still typesetters out there…it a lost art sad to say.

  3. Great points! And the summary says it all! Copy is more than persuasive words, it is also visual, providing readers (or listeners) a positive experience. When copy violates human nature and expectations, as you so clearly point out Patrick, you lose readers or listeners attention. And their interest. Thanks for sharing super guidance.

  4. I love to read about and do anything related to design layout and typography. Just looking at different fonts is pleasurable. Right now, I’m in the last stages of building my website and thought I had it all figured out. But noooooo. Patrick has showed me things I never dreamed of. And I will put them to good use, right now. Like that ‘dinosaur’ tip, which reminds me to go and delete that underlining in one of my headings.

    1. JR I also love to look at fonts…in my younger days, my friends and I would go to movies and the first one who correctly named the credits font got a free drink from the rest. Yup, we were type nerds.

      I’m so happy this post will help you improve your website.

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