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Typography Basics: Indents, Outdents and Hanging Punctuation


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Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation

In this movie, we are going to talk about a few little things that mean a lot. We'll talk about ways to indicate the beginnings of paragraphs, and when and why to use hanging punctuation. Oh, and I'll tell you what hanging punctuation is. We'll start with indents. One of the most basic little cues that readers depend upon are the indicators that tell us we are about to start a new paragraph. The reader must be able to clearly distinguish where one paragraph ends and the next begins. The most common graphics signal is the indent.

The width of the indent should be enough to be easily visible based on the line length. One pica is a good starting point. Another way to indicate paragraphs is the out dent. These will need a wider left-hand margin, so the out dents are not too close to the edge of the page. If space permits, you may also indicate paragraphs by skipping a line space or a half line space between paragraphs. An unusual and more dramatic method is a very wide indent. Here is an example. This works best with very wide columns of text.

Another possibility is to run all the text together as a solid block and to indicate paragraphs using a typographic device such as a square block or a decorative character like this one. Some punctuation marks need special attention too. In a justified column of text, when these marks are at the beginning or end of a line, the smaller bits of punctuation should extend beyond the edge of the text block. These are quote marks and apostrophes, hyphens, commas and periods.

This helps keep the optical alignment of the justified column intact, avoiding an optical indentation or gap. We call this hanging punctuation. Larger punctuation marks like question marks, exclamation points, colons, and semicolons, parentheses, and brackets, take up about the same space as a letter, so they don't need to extend beyond the edge of the justified text. Paying attention to these seemingly small details will improve the appearance of your text.

This is what professionals do and properly indicating paragraphs will help the reader along. These small steps will contribute to reading ease and comfort, an important goal for every designer who wants to use typography well.

Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation
Video duration: 2m 26s 2h 23m Beginner

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Indents, outdents, and hanging punctuation provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Ina Saltz as part of the Foundations of Typography

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