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Design Elements, 2nd Edition by Timothy Samara

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(F39)_Job:12-40337 Title:RP-Design Elements 2nd Edition
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TEXT
choosing and using type
146
MECHANICS OF TEXT
Assessing Character Count, Leading,
and Paragraph Width
The width of a para-
graph depends heavily on the size of type
being used and, therefore, how many
characters can be fit onto a single line.
Regardless of the type size or the reader’s
maturity, between fifty and eighty charac-
ters (including spaces) can be processed
before a line return. With words averaging
between five and ten letters, that means
approximately eight to twelve words per
line. Achieving this character count
determines the width of a paragraph. The
proportions of the page format—and how
much text must be made to fit overall—
might affect paragraph width, but char-
acter count is the best starting point for
defining an optimal width.
A comparison of character count
for a selection of typefaces, at
varying sizes, is shown set on the
same paragraph width. As with
all typographic rules, there is a
range to what is comfortable for
the average reader. Given a fifty-
to eighty-character comfort
Comfortable interline space,
or leading, varies according to
several characteristics in typeface
style and size; but generally,
the interline space should seem
a point or two larger than the
height of the lowercase running
as text. Because the x-height
varies so much among faces,
a designer will need to judge
the leading appropriate to the
appearance of the lowercase,
rather than try to assign a leading
to a point size by way of a specific
formula.
range, it is easy to see that
a paragraph must widen as
the type size increases and
narrow as it decreases, to
maintain the optimal number
of characters on a line.
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(F39)_Job:12-40337 Title:RP-Design Elements 2nd Edition
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TEXT
design elements
147
The leading of the lines, as noted, depends
somewhat on the width of the paragraph,
the type size, and its spacing. The space
between lines should be noticeably larger
than the optical height of the lines, but
not so much that it becomes pronounced.
Similarly, the leading must not be so tight
that the reader locates the beginning of the
same line after the return and begins read-
ing it again. As paragraph width increases,
so must the leading, so that the beginnings
of the lines are more easily distinguished.
Oddly, as the width of a paragraph nar-
rows, the leading must also be increased:
otherwise, the reader might grab several
lines together because the snapshots he or
she takes while scanning encompass the
full paragraph width.
The optimal quality of the column widths for the
running text in this page spread is evident in lines of
relatively consisent length, a comfortable rag, and
notably few occurrences of hyphenated line breaks.
This column width also appears to accommodate
heads and subheads of different sizes.
MARTIN OOSTRA NETHERLANDS
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