Avoid Typography Mistakes With This Checklist

typography mistakes

You Can Avoid These Typography Mistakes

Avoiding typography mistakes takes a keen eye, a deft hand, and plenty of patience. However, being precise need not be overwhelming. Brushing up on your typography fundamentals and utilizing a typographic checklist will help ensure that your typesetting is both professional and visually appealing.

Stay a step ahead by keeping these typographic points in mind when you’re designing:

Superficial Typographical Errors

Steer clear of these common type crimes

1. Eliminate double word spaces between sentences

This bad habit is a relic of the typewriter age. No matter what your typing teacher taught you as a child, it is wrong.

2. Replace dumb quotes (including apostrophes)

Another fossil from the days of typewriters, straight quotes need to be laid to rest. Curly quotes = smart quotes.

3. Check inch and foot marks (primes)

These marks should be straight rather than curly.

4. Use hyphens, en- and em-dashes properly

These three punctuation marks have very different uses. Make sure you’re not using them interchangeably.

Avoid typography mistakes by learning the fundamentals. RSVP to learn more from Ilene Strizver.

5. Avoid fake small caps, embolding and slanting

Don’t use your computer to make a font do something it wasn’t meant to do. Choose a font family that offers the styles you need.

6. Use all cap text sparingly

People don’t read letter-by-letter, but by word shape. Using all caps makes this much more difficult for readers.

7. Beware of all cap swash settings

Stylized swash letters can add flavor to your type, but they don’t play well in all caps.

8. Size type appropriately (both text and display)

Be aware of the size range the designer had in mind when making the font.

Spacing and Alignment

Good visual balance and alignment contribute greatly to professionally set typography

1. Avoid poor justification

2. Avoid letter-spaced lowercase

If you absolutely must track out a font, use all caps (and sparingly, at that).

3. Make sure kerning is even and tasteful

Maintain legible word shapes while compensating for clashes between characters.

4. Apply hung punctuation / optical margin alignment

Trust your eyes when lines begin or end with punctuation – don’t be afraid to extend into the margins a bit.

5. Check for proper vertical and horizontal alignment

Don’t rely solely on measurements when leading – trust your eyes.

6. Use tracking appropriately, as necessary

When using fonts at less-than-optimal sizes, track them to maintain legible word shapes.

7. Check for appropriate word spacing and adjust as necessary

Your eyes know best. If the words look like they’re running into one another, give them some room.

8. Align initial letters properly

Initial letters are a great way to denote the beginning of a new paragraph. Be mindful of how they are aligned with the paragraph text.

Advanced Fine-tuning & Refinements

The devil is in the details, so use these points as a guide to first-rate typography. Take Ilene’s Advanced Typography class to firm up your foundation.

1. Adjust bad rags

Use manual line breaks to give your paragraphs a pleasing shape.

2. Avoid too many hyphens in a row

Hyphens can be used to give you control over your paragraph shape, but are very distracting when overused.

3. Avoid widows and orphans

Words left on their own lines at the beginning or end of paragraphs lead to too much white space.

4. Use appropriate figure style and spacing

Not all numbers are created equal. Use the styles that sit well with your fonts.

5. Use diagonal fractions if possible, especially in OpenType

Setting fractions diagonally is the most professional & visually pleasing method.

6. Fine-tune size, position and spacing of bullets

Are the bullets aligned to either the cap height or x-height of your font?

This piece was originally adapted from an article by Ilene Strizver for our friends at Fonts.com.

Avoid typography mistakes by learning the fundamentals. RSVP to learn more from Ilene Strizver.

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Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio is a noted typographic educator, consultant, designer and writer.