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In typesetting, justification (can also be referred to as 'full justification') is the typographic alignment setting of text or images within a column or "measure" to align along both the left and right margin. Text set this way is said to be "justified".

In justified text, the spaces between words, and, to a lesser extent, between glyphs or letters (kerning), are stretched or sometimes compressed in order to make the text align with both the left and right margins. When using justification, it is customary to treat the last line of a paragraph separately by left or right aligning it, depending on the language direction. Lines in which the spaces have been stretched beyond their normal width are called loose lines, while those whose spaces have been compressed are called tight lines.

The following table displays the difference between a justified (flush left and flush right) and a flush left (and ragged right) text.

Justified (flush left and right) Flush left, ragged right
Thy father was delighted and cried out to the servant, 'Give him a hundred and three gold pieces with a robe of honour!' The man obeyed his orders, and I awaited an auspicious moment, when I blooded him; and he did not baulk me; nay he thanked me and I was also thanked and praised by all present. When the blood-letting was over I had no power to keep silence and asked him, 'By God, O my lord, what made thee say to the servant, Give him an hundred and three dinars?'; and he answered, 'One dinar was for the astrological observation, another for thy pleasant conversation, the third for the phlebotomisation, and the remaining hundred and the dress were for thy verses in my commendation.'" "May God show small mercy to my father," exclaimed I, "for knowing the like of thee."[1] Thy father was delighted and cried out to the servant, 'Give him a hundred and three gold pieces with a robe of honour!' The man obeyed his orders, and I awaited an auspicious moment, when I blooded him; and he did not baulk me; nay he thanked me and I was also thanked and praised by all present. When the blood-letting was over I had no power to keep silence and asked him, 'By God, O my lord, what made thee say to the servant, Give him an hundred and three dinars?'; and he answered, 'One dinar was for the astrological observation, another for thy pleasant conversation, the third for the phlebotomisation, and the remaining hundred and the dress were for thy verses in my commendation.'" "May God show small mercy to my father," exclaimed I, "for knowing the like of thee."[1]

It was common for early electronic printers to use monospaced fonts, and word processing packages designed for these systems often allowed text to be justified by inserting extra spaces between words in the shorter lines. This has the disadvantage that it tends to lead to very uneven spaces between words.

The following paragraph has been justified by a monospaced text-processing system:

And indeed  thou shalt never find  a man better versed in affairs
than I, and I am here standing on my feet to serve thee. I am not
vexed  with thee:  why  shouldest  thou be  vexed  with  me?  But
whatever happen I will bear patiently  with thee in memory of the
much kindness thy father shewed me."  "By God," cried I,  "O thou
with tongue  long as  the tail of a  jackass, thou  persistest in
pestering me  with thy prate and  thou becomest more  longsome in
thy long  speeches, when all I  want of thee is to  shave my head
and wend thy way!"

Justification sometimes leads to typographic anomalies. When justification is used in narrow columns, exceptionally large spaces appear between only two or three words (creating what is called a loose line). When the spaces between words line up approximately above one another in several loose lines, a distracting river of white space may appear[2]. Rivers appear in right-aligned, left-aligned and centered settings too, but are more likely to flow in justified text due to extra word spacing. Both of these problems are reduced by the addition of hyphenation. In WYSIWYG word processors, this was at one time done manually, with the writer adding hyphenation on a case-by-case basis, though modern word processors hyphenate automatically, as do typesetting systems such as LaTeX. In the latter case, automatic hyphenation is required, with manual override as needed, because the writer cannot tell during text preparation where a line will end in the typeset output.

People with dyslexia (particularly Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) find that justification interferes with cognitive understanding. Since spacing after a full stop is only a fraction of the spacing within a sentence (like 1 to 10), full stops only marginally contribute to the river effect. Hyphenation can also be an issue.[3]

At one time, common word-processing software adjusted only the spacing between words, which was a source of this problem. Modern word processing packages, and professional publishing software, significantly reduce the rivers effect through adjusting the spacing between characters as well as using more advanced digital typography techniques such as automatically choosing among different glyphs for the same character and slightly stretching or shrinking the character in order to better fill the line. The technique of glyph scaling or microtypography has been implemented by Adobe InDesign and more recent versions of pdfTeX.

Word-processing software usually use a different kind of justification when dealing with Arabic texts. Using kashida, characters or glyphs are elongated instead of stretching the white spaces.

History

Justification has been the preferred setting of type in many western languages through the history of movable type. This is due to the classic Western manuscript book page being built of a column or two columns, which is considered to look "best" if it is even-margined on the left and right. The classical Western column did not rigorously justify, but came as close as feasible when the skill of the penman and the character of the manuscript permitted. Historically, both scribal and typesetting traditions took advantage of abbreviations (sigla), ligatures, and swash to help maintain the rhythm and colour of a justified line.

The use of movable type solidified this preference from a technological point of view. It was much easier to handle and make emendations to large amounts of type that had words or syllables at the ends of lines than it was to respace the ends of lines.

Its use has only waned somewhat since the middle of the 20th century through the advocacy of the typographer Jan Tschichold's book Asymmetric Typography and the freer typographic treatment of the Bauhaus, Dada, and Russian constructivist movements.

Not all "flush left" settings in traditional typography were identical. In flush left text, words are separated on a line by the minimum word spacing built into the font.

Continuous casting typesetting systems such as the Linotype were able to reduce the jaggedness of the right-hand sides of adjacent lines of flush left composition by inserting self-adjusting space bands between words to evenly distribute white space, taking excessive space that would have occurred at the end of the line and redistributing it between words.

This feature, known as "ragged right" or "in and out ragged", was available in traditional dedicated typesetting systems but is absent from most if not all desktop publishing systems. Graphic designers and typesetters using desktop systems adjust word and letter spacing, or "tracking", on a manual line-by-line basis to achieve the same effect.

See also

References


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