ragged right for fiction?

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petezoe's picture
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ragged right for fiction?
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My first post. I've been lurking here for a while, but just signed up.

I'm learning about book design with a specific goal in mind -- namely, laying out my own novel to publish with a POD firm (BookSurge). I want the design to look modern -- not experimental or edgy, mind you, but nevertheless fully up-to-date. I'm using Whitman for the text. I've chosen Scala Sans for the dust jacket, and may also use it for the running headers and chapter titles. When I'm happy with my design, I'll post a couple of pages over in the critique section.

First, I need to decide whether to go with full justification or ragged right. I set the first chapter both ways and printed out the pages. The more I looked at them, the more attractive and readable the RR version came to seem. I'd all but decided to go in that direction.

But.

Last night I had some time to kill, and I browsed a few dozen books at Barnes & Noble, and I was a little bit surprised to find very few books set that way. Out of the I-don't-know-how-many I looked at, I found precisely four set ragged right, all by the same author, Ali Smith. The latest of her books, a hardcover short story collection, didn't seem particularly well-designed. Very undistinguished typeface at a very large size, bland cover. The whole thing might just as well have been produced with Word.

I really genuinely prefer the look of the text set RR, but since FJ is clearly so overwhelmingly more common, would it look like an amateurish mistake? The design should fit the text and so on, but is full justification such an unwavering element in the design of novels that I daren't buck tradition?

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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You are in a predicament, but also in fine company. The 1979 Pan Books edition of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was set unjustified, ranged left. It is the only novel I know of like that. I always thought that it was an example of early computer euphoria/intoxication (the cover is a fuzzy screen dump of an early colour computer type).

All the other books in the series, starting in 1980 are set justified.

jörg agostini's picture
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I prefer it left justified. A nicely set left justified text block looks just beautiful.
But the downside of having it that way is the work and time. It takes
a while to get the ragging right for one paragraph. And if you're talking about
a book, you will sit there for ever...

a think this is the reason most books are justified

petezoe's picture
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Yes... I see your point.

I read these posts earlier on my phone, when I was waiting for a coffee at the B&N. I decided to see if Hitchhiker's had been reset. Yes, it has. Justified.

However, I then checked the Ali Smith books again. (There are three of them: Boy Meets Girl, The Accidental, and Hotel World. And then there's the latest, First Person, which is a collection of short stories.)

Leaving aside First Person, which didn't look good to me, they really are well done. No hyphenation at all, and yet the ragging is incredibly even. It's difficult to believe that happened by pure chance, but if there were variations in spacing, they were imperceptible, at least to my eye.

By contrast, the chapter that I set in Indy is noticeably raggedy, even with hyphenation.

Harumph.

Mark Yehan De Winne's picture
Joined: 3 Jul 2007 - 9:17pm
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I work on books for a living. We usually do it left justified too(using Indesign yeah?) It can take sometime, and you do need to get your baseline grid set up (or it will be PAIN) but it's definitely worth it. NOTE: you will need to do some editing of the text here and there to make lines fit.

That said, ragged right is very pleasant too. I don't see why you shouldn't do it unless you end up having loads of spaces everywhere. I think the reason most books are justified is probably cos it looks ever so slightly tidier...

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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Now I think of it, there would be a really good reason to set long text ragged right: that's what poetry looks like. If your book can genuinely aspire to that, go for it.

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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Just a note: setting good ragged right for extended text takes every bit as much time as setting justified. Perhaps more time, as you usually have to fight the layout program more.

petezoe's picture
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@paragraph: I suspect that's why the Ali Smith books are set that way. There is, in fact, a long poem-like section in the middle of The Accidental. I did consciously aim for a lyrical style. I don't know if "poetic" is too much to claim...

@Yehan & charles_e: I did actually think RR would be easier, till I compared the Ali Smith books to what InDesign did to my text. It's gonna be difficult to get right. But I think I'm going to give it a go.

Thanks!

Mark Yehan De Winne's picture
Joined: 3 Jul 2007 - 9:17pm
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All the best...keep at it! ..Indesign is good, but not great, you really do have to "fight the layout program"

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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The best layout engine I ever used to set ragged was (plain) TeX, with a number of macros and careful adjustment of both the penalties and demerits.

Even so, for a long text, a lot of handwork would be involved if you had "theories" on what made for good ragged composition. Enough handwork so that you wouldn't want to pay my bill (I set type for money). Easier to abandon the theories and just look at the results, and with that objective, the doctored TeX would do quite nice work.

If your novel is a to be a visual work of art, meant to first satisfy you as a visual artist, have at it. If you want to give your audience an easier time reading the text (does this take away from the visual art side?), set it justified.

Kent Lew's picture
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If, when you did your initial chapter trials, the FL/RR setting looked significantly more "readable" than the Justified (and not just more "attractive" -- i.e., not just a visual preference for the overall look of RR), then I might suggest that your H&J settings may not be optimum.

Bad H&Js can make it less than a fair fight between FL/RR and Justified.

As Charles says, if this is primarily vanity press (I don't mean that pejoratively) then you should do what pleases you.

If, on the other hand, you want your novel to occur as a familiar and professional object, then justified is by far the more conventional approach, and you would do well to take time to get your settings (type size, leading, measure, margins, H&Js) worked out just so.

-- Kent.

petezoe's picture
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Well, I did say the RR was more readable, and it was -- slightly. But more than that, I just liked the way RR looked. The differences in readability were not enormous.

I did fiddle with the H&Js, following the suggestions I found here:

http://typophile.com/node/36691

But I wouldn't say I lavished a great deal of attention on that process. At the time I was just trying to get my game into the right ballpark, so it would be a fair competition between the two.

In the end, I think if I'm to err, it should be on the side of convention. I want this to be a book, not an art project. Besides, it's a fairly long book, and I'm new at this, and it's probably best not to make this stuff too difficult for myself.

So far, here's what I've got.

I'm using Whitman 10.5/14 x 27p0.

Hyphenation: words with at least 5 letters, after first 3 letters, before last 3 letters, hyphen limit 2, hyphenation zone .25".

I thought I'd saved the FJ version, but I didn't. Rats. I'm gonna have to work through the justification settings again.

But hey, this is the fun part, right?

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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I don't know if Kent will comment, since Whitman is his typeface, so let me make it a little easier for him, by saying a few things. If I say something egregious, he can take that as a starting point.

First of all, 27 picas sounds a bit much, at least, if you're aiming for a nice trade look. This isn't so much for the length of the lines, but the margins.

Margins depend on binding, not only "cloth" or "paperback," but "sewn" or "notch." The binding fixes the gutter margin; that has a lot of influence on the others. The outside (fore edge) should be a little larger than the gutter. Top should be a minimum of 1/2 inch to the top of the running head, if you are using one. Given todays folding & trimming, I like 9/16. The foot margin should be at least an inch. Notice the "at least."

As for only allowing hyphenation after three letters: Remember that two letters plus a hyphen has more or less the visual weight of three letters. If you banish two letters plus a hyphen, a number of long words don't work. "because" comes to mind -- a lot of the "be-" and "de-" prefixes ("defeated "also comes to mind, as I can't think of a "de" prefix, etc.). A long word starting with "m" or "w", that's a lot of space.

We use a custom dictionary; you could (laboriously) make such words be~~~cause in your hyphenation dictionary; the three tildes add a significant penalty, so if the program chooses to break there, you know it is to avoid a really loose line. Etc.

I imagine when Kent said play with the H&J settings, he meant minimum and ideal word spaces. Because the comps at our shop are timid, I go into the fonts and change the nominal word space width so an InDesign setting of 75 minimum (usually, sometimes 80) and 100 ideal works pretty well. For that reason, I don't remember Whitman's nominal value. I seem to remember it is small -- Kent would know. Set the minimum so it is just a bit too tight, but still readable -- this value won't be used too often. Set the ideal so a paragraph set ragged looks good. Forget about the maximum, all it controls is the number & color of problem lines, if you toggle that on. InDesign ain't TeX, more's the pity.

Good luck.

petezoe's picture
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Wow! That is helpful beyond measure!

I've already changed the margins and hyphenation as you suggested. My printer's been otherwise occupied, so I haven't been able to test out the justification settings yet. I think I'll leave it as a task for tomorrow. But I'm in much better shape than I was a couple of hours ago.

Thank you!

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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I am getting confused here, do you want the setting to be justified or ragged right?

If you use unjustified, ragged right: the minimum, desired and maximum word spaces as well as the letter spacings will be ignored by the layout software, and you should turn hyphenation off. Experiment with the Paragraph vs Single line Composer setting.

The word- and letter-spacing should only enter the fray for justified text. Wordspace: 80/100/120, letterspace: -3/0/3, glyphs: 98/100/102 settings are a conservative rule of thumb, with hyphenation like this (fairly safe):

Good luck!

Dan Beltechi's picture
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[Tracking]

Charles Ellertson's picture
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If you use unjustified, ragged right: the minimum, desired and maximum word spaces as well as the letter spacings will be ignored by the layout software

I don't believe this is quite true. I haven't set that much ragged copy using InDesign -- a few indexes -- and am ashamed to say I haven't done a test to be sure. But from the days when I was a full-time comp, I always used a little variation in space to aid in setting ragged text, about 2% of an em. With the old 18-unit em, typical spaceband values for ragged setting would be 4.33-4.66-4.99. That would be equivalent to 98%-100%-102% with InDesign. That 2% is equal to about 4 units of space, not visible. But with 9 spaces on a line, that's an extra 72 units on a line for the program to play with (with the plus and minus), and sometimes that helps.

and you should turn hyphenation off.

Well, that's one of those theories I mentioned above. You can make an argument for it, but remember that turning off hyphenation is a compromise. You are compromising the amount of space at the end of the line by banishing hyphens. Viewed one way, ragged and justified are the same. With ragged setting, the amount of space that "won't fit" is thrown to the end of the line; with justified setting, it is distributed between words. Technically the same problem, and the same compromises are at play.

Another thing I use to do with TeX was to specify hfuzz. hfuzz was a value that a line could be overset. With justified setting, I'd use about .5 points. With ragged setting, I'd use about 3 points. As there really is no right margin, there is nothing to tell the eye exactly where the margin is, unless you set running head/folio block flush outside. But even here, the RH/folio is about 2 picas above the first text line, and even if the first text line is 3 points long, it won't show in a reading environment.

InDesign doesn't have an exact equivalent. You can change the text frame on individual pages, which would be handwork; not programmable. Also, that affects every line & so is a little different, but it is a tool you can use.

TeX let you specify the degree of raggness, too. \rightskip 0pt would be justified. \rightskip 0pt plus 1fil is unlimited ragged. \rightskip 0pt plus 12 points specified a maximum of 1 pica of whitespace on the right margin. We use to play with the "plus" amount on individual titles, getting a final value that looked reasonable with a specific text and design, and with only a passable amount of handwork required to resolve problems.

I don't believe InDesign has an equivalent setting. It would be nice.

There were other settings -- hyphen penalty and double hyphen demerits, but there are more or less equivalent settings in InDesign.

Note: the \rightskip 0pt plus . . ." etc. above isn't the proper syntax for TeX, I added the spaces to make it readable.

Kent Lew's picture
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I can't imagine Charles saying anything egregious on this topic. He's a consummate professional and he knows his stuff. I don't disagree with anything he's said.

Your 27p measure is a little long for 10.5pt Whitman. But it sounds like you may have changed that already. Incidentally, the Virginia Quarterly Review uses Whitman at 11pt on a line measure of ~27p; that works better. (The trim is 6.75 x 10 inches and the margins are generous.)

I am of the opinion that hyphenation is generally not a huge impediment to readability. I prefer a limit of 3 hyphens to a stack, to give the composition engine more room to find optimum spacing. And I prefer to set that slider in the Indd Hyphenation Settings dialog box further to the left, toward better spacing. My default setting is three clicks in from the left.

Charles is right: I was more concerned with the justification settings. This is the more significant variable, in my opinion.

The nominal word space value in Whitman is a modest 220. Charles's 75% minimum yields 165 (about one sixth em). I think these are good settings for Whitman. The maximum setting doesn't actually mean that you won't have any word spaces larger than your specification, because the fact of the matter is that when all else fails, the composition engine will give up and throw extra word space into the line as a last resort. The maximum only really matters if your settings also allow some positive letter spacing (by signaling the threshold before letter spacing is introduced).

I disagree with Jan/(paragraph)'s rule-of-thumb settings; I don't consider ±3 letterspacing or any degree of glyph scaling to be conservative at all. I rarely resort to allowing more than ±1 letterspacing (and usually only for narrow column work, preferring none for settings such as we're discussing). I only resort to glyph scaling on an ad hoc basis for truly intractable problems.

But you seem to have ready access to the author in this case, in the event that a re-write is in order ;-)

Perhaps Jan's numbers work as general-purpose settings, since the extremes will hopefully rarely occur. Nevertheless, I shudder to think of that line that ends up with 80% word spaces, -3% letter spacing, and glyphs squooshed 98%. In a newspaper setting, maybe, but not in a book I hope.

-- Kent.

Kent Lew's picture
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I think that in a FL/RR setting InDesign will throw out some small amount of word spacing, on occasion, to squeeze a line in. I don't think it ever adds any space to even a rag. I don't know how the settings affect this, if at all.

Eric Menninga sometimes happens by these forums, and he would know. I'll drop him a line and see if he can shed any light on this matter.

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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When I set up our shops nominal H&J settings for InDesign CS2, I used .1 (1/10) for both letterspacing and glyph scaling. I couldn't see the effect (still, I'm old & have cataracts). This did allow a change in the way ID composed 1 line (paragraph) in three pages.

Hard to say without testing just where letterspacing & scaling become noticable. We use to play around with the Linotron 202, removing one scan line in each character in a line (it used about 960 lines per inch). Barely noticable with a loupe & much experience with a font & how its letterforms should look. (In passing: you could write a program to see the result, but it seemed impossible to implement in a production environment.)

I'm all for using whatever a program will allow to aid even word spacing with H&J. Remember, in the good old letterpress days, each letter was individually cast. You better believe there was variation -- sometimes far too much. Having said that, I'd hold it to "not noticable" save for fonts that have been designed to have alternate characters to aid H&J. To date, I know of none implemented -- or a program that would make use of them. Another one of Zapf's ideas still waiting implementation.

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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Perhaps Jan’s numbers work as general-purpose settings

Exactly, Kent, you are quite right. It was meant to be easy and flexible, to allow the paging to proceed almost automatically. I was always a bit lazy and keen to maintain my hourly rate, and most of the books I did were non-fiction, mainly text books.

For the hyphenation, I think that UK usage (which I am used to) is more strict than the US one (target for the book), so please ignore my hyphenation suggestions.

Charles Ellertson's picture
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The subject of hyphgen stacks came up on another list I'm involved in a few days ago. Here are a couple of quotes (unattributed, of course)

I started at Princeton when they still had the Linotype and letterpress going. The guys in the plant hated stacked hyphs because they acted like squeegees and they had to stop the presses, clean off the ink, and start again. This was "form following function" ... now that form has no relevance but we continue to call these bad breaks.

I would rather see 3 or more hyphens in a row than manipulated word-spacing (and, gawd forbid, letterspaced justification) << shudder >> AND, since the invention of desktop publishing, AND the enormous list I typeset, personally, I haven't seen really good typesetting come out of my own office, sighhhh, as I've caved into "bringing down" the 2-letter syllables or "taking up" the "liquid Ls" .. shhhhhhh, don't tell anyone.

To which came the reply:

I'm reminded of designer Bill Cason, who I worked for eons ago [. . .], a gentle soul who when provoked to extremes would mutter into his beard, "If all the editors in the world were laid end to end it would be a good thing...."

petezoe's picture
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Thanks again to all! I've implemented some of the suggestions already, and I'm going to go through all the posts and tinker with the H&Js as suggested.

So far, using Charles's suggestions from last night, I've increased all the margins, which has reduced the width to 25p6. (The trim size is 6x9". Margins are 9/16" at top, 1" bottom and outside, 3/4" inside. The inside margin comes from the printer's specs.)

I'll post a more detailed reply and updates on my progress in a bit. But there were a couple of things I wanted to address now:

I am getting confused here, do you want the setting to be justified or ragged right?

Sorry about that! Your confusion stems from my own -- for a while there, I was flip-flopping every time I viewed the replies to this thread.

However, I have decided once and for all to go with full justification.

But you seem to have ready access to the author in this case, in the event that a re-write is in order ;-)

I've been trying to come up with a non-shopworn split personality joke, but so far, not so good.

Eric Menninga's picture
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I haven't been following Typophile for a few weeks (busy) but Kent Lew alerted me to this excellent thread. I'll add what I can:
- First of all, as mentioned above, it is much easier to make a computer program do really good justified text than really good ragged text because justified text has one dominant variable (even color) and a variety of lesser factors, but the decisions for ragged text are more difficult to codify.
- I know that a debate exists about adding justification to ragged lines to even out or clean up the rag. However, InDesign will never expand a ragged line. It will compress a line in 2 cases: a line that is somewhat longer and has "no break" applied, and a line that just barely fits will occasionally be made to fit. (barely fits means a fraction of a point)
- We ignore all justification settings in ragged text except the desired setting which applies as expected.

In general, I'm seeing more ragged text: magazines & newspapers seem to be switching to a ragged setting. However, these narrower columns can create bad spacing that you'll never see in books.

jrdn.clrk's picture
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I worked as a PrePress Technician doing book layout for a couple years, and in that time probably only set one or two books ragged right. It's definitely uncommon, but it has been done. I was surprised to find it in Denzel Washington's book:

http://www.amazon.com/Hand-Guide-Me-Denzel-Washington/dp/B001IDZJAE/ref=...

I think that book is a collection of short stories, so that might have something to do with it. For an entire novel, I don't know if I would recommend it.

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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except the desired setting which applies as expected

Oops. Quite so. I think I wanted to say that but didn’t :-$

Bert Vanderveen's picture
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One reason why FJ (Fully Justified) is predominant has not been mentioned yet: eg the fact that the opacity of most printing papers used for books implicates some degree of see-through (transparancy), which in the case of RR (Ragged Right) causes a distracting phantom effect on the right side of the page. FJ obscures this.

You should have a look at the specific product from your POD-provider, before you decide on RR.

BTW: I like RR a lot and find it easier on the eye, esp. when speedreading.

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

petezoe's picture
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@Bert: Funny you should mention it ... Last night when I was feeding chapters into InDesign and printing them out (on cheap paper), I noticed that the FJ block makes for a very nice trim block of color when it shows through. With RR it would probably look somewhat odd.

However, I did buy a couple of books printed by this company, and the paper is heavy enough to prevent the text from showing through.

I reserve the right (no pun intended) to set a future book RR. But as the pages stack up and I flip through them, I am quite liking the familiar appearance of rectangular blocks of text. It's all rather, well, booklike.

Kent Lew's picture
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Glad things are progressing to your satisfaction.

For future reference, if you ever do decide to pursue the RR route, you might be interested in Eric Gill's argument in favor of FL/RR setting. It makes up the chapter entitled, provocatively, "The Procrustean Bed" in his An Essay on Typography.

petezoe's picture
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Hey, Kent,

I'll check that out. In On Book Design, Hendel mentions Essay on Typography, in reference to Gill's use of paragraph symbols instead of indentations. And now I think I understand Hendel's later allusion to Procrustes as well.

Thanks for the tip!

Matt

Charles Ellertson's picture
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The notion of running in paragraphs and using a pilcrow to denote new paragraphs reminds me of a book I set in the early 1990s -- it was all one paragraph. The book was designed by Mary Mendell, entered in the AAUP Book Show, and selected. The juror remarked that the single paragraph was a bit hard to read, but the incredibly even word spacing (it was set justified) helped a lot.

Wish I could take credit. We were using TeX, and if you give TeX's paragraph optimization routine enough material to work on, it will find line breaks while maintaining "incredibly even" word spacing.

That was the days of the 286 chip; I could get about four pages worth of text into memory for TeX to work on. It would be much more today. The only composition task was to determine where to "break" into a "new," albeit unsignaled, "paragraph."

Using a run-in paragraph style & a pilcrow would work even better with the enormous machine-memory available today. The only thing I don't know whether or not Adobe's change to Knuth's paragraph optimization routine (which enabled Adobe to get a patent) would give as good a result as plain TeX with this technique.

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InDesign shipped the first 2 versions (1.0 & 1.5) with a variant of Knuth's TeX algorithm. The general algorithm builds a tree like structure traversing the paragraph determining the optimal layout. As Charles says, it works well when you give it enough material to work on. However, it also (especially our implementation) was memory intensive, and, in a desktop WYSIWYG application, isn't allowed to "fail". This lead to the user attributes in versions 1.0 & 1.5 that controlled the width & breadth of the tree of possibilities. The patent received for that engine was specific to this dynamic pruning of the tree.
However, since version 2.0 of InDesign, we no longer use this tree-building algorithm. A colleague on Adobe Illustrator found a description/proof of an algorithm that optimally composed an entire paragraph in a table whose size was a fixed multiple of the paragraph size (number of breaks) which is much better than the exponentially growing tree we used before. We received 3 patents for making this algorithm more general purpose (e.g. supporting non-rectangular text frames).
However, there is still the question about what to do with enormous paragraphs. The truth is that if the paragraph exceeds a fixed size (8000 characters) we switch quietly to the single line composer (throw shoes here). This number could be increased, given it was first set 10 years ago, but we do need an upper limit. The switch doesn't stick and if the paragraph gets smaller again, we'll use the paragraph composer again.
So, long answer to a short question: InDesign will NOT set that book well because we don't have the ability to composer partial paragraphs except a line at a time.

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Professional publishers have long established routines and workflows. Most have been setting books justified for centuries. Ragged right is the new guy in book work and has not burst through established procedures often.
If you are doing your own book, you have a choice that comes with the willingness to do the work. So what if one way or another takes more time to do, it is your own book so do it your own way (whatever that is). Whatever way that is, do it well. Test a few pages different ways and choose the best. Then, just put in the time and effort it takes to do a good job. You have to love it to do it and I assume you care about your own writing.

ChrisL

Charles Ellertson's picture
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Chris,

The point I, and I think Kent, was trying to make above is that there are two considerations, what the author wants to show the world (regardless of how much work), but also what the reading audience expects to see.

I've been involved with "experimental art" enough years to come to think it an oxymoron, and have no sympathy for anyone who wants to do something different & then complains when it isn't well received.

Which isn't to say don't do it -- you picks your audience & lives with it.

* * *

Eric, Thanks for the explanation. You're safe from me; I try not to wear shoes. Just soft house slippers.

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I have a theory that it is easier to read justified text because the parafovea--blurry peripheral vision--can see the edge of the text block and as a result plan the next saccade more efficiently.

I say this just to indicate that there are issues other than evenness of word spacing, and these may in the end be more important.

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"...also what the reading audience expects to see."

There is not enough evidence to prove one way or the other which the audience will read better, flushleft or justified. There is more to be said for how well it is done than which you choose. That is all I meant. What I said was make your choice and do a good job of it. It is that simple.
What the audience expects to sees has evolved over time and will continue to do so. Once upon a time it was expected that what was to be read would be written in blackletter. Later, it was expected to be set in a type version of blackletter. But, people never being satisfied with an eternity of the status quo, they moved on to hundreds of different roman types with a splash of sans entering the fray in the 20th century. If you want to strictly adhere to the notion of what is expected, then by all means, set everything in justified Times Roman, Garamond, or Caslon. You will then never have to dip your toe in the murky waters of change. It is OK to be fearful of trying something a tad different that the most conservative norms of the past. You will never suffer disappointment if that is what you are after. Some people might just want to taste something new for lunch once in a while. I hope we are not too afraid to at least allow a few new things on the menu for those folks to try?

There is nothing to fear but fear itself :-)

ChrisL

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I've implemented all the suggestions that were brought up in this thread's earlier incarnation. I've been meaning to post some sample pages, but I got swamped with other stuff -- plus I was thinking I should probably go through the whole book with a fine-toothed comb and look for rivers and whatnot. But then I realized I'm still going to be making some edits for length, so it's premature to break out the comb, fine-toothed or otherwise.

So. I thought I'd post a few pages and see what y'all think so far.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to attach an image to this post. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but when I click "insert image," the file open dialog box pops up with all the files grayed out.

Instead, here are some links:

Half Title
Title
Copyright Info
Epigraph

Chapter Title
Verso
Recto

Oh, yeah, some details, for those who are interested...

The margins are 3/4" inside and 1" bottom and outside. It's about 1/2 an inch to the running header, 7/8" from the top of the page to the text.

For body text I used Whitman 10.5/14 x 25p6.

Hyphenation:

words of at least 5 letters
after first 2 letters
before last 3 letters
hyphen limit 2 hyphens
hyphenation zone 1p6

Justification:

word spacing: 75/100/125
letter spacing: -.1/0/.1
glyph scaling: 100/100/100

The sans used on the title page and in the running headers is Scala Sans. The chapter numbers and page numbers are Whitman, though. The Scala Sans numbers seemed a little too big, and making them smaller didn't look right, either.

Thanks again to everyone for your help earlier.

Jan Schmoeger's picture
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Looks nice and polite. My two cents: half-title, title and chapter opening bear no design resemblance, should use the same thinking, or perhaps a similar theme should be carried through. The imprint and especially the poem (epigraph) would be better with no hyphenation: ego-tisms and self-con-victed might make Walt spin wherever he is now.

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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Matt,

I'm tempted to echo the "tie it together" comment, but I also remember Richard Eckersley's portion of a panel where he chronicled the problems and a resulting disaster (in his mind) of trying to tie all the front matter pages together. He came to the conclusion that they are all unique pages, and sometimes require unique treatments. I believe he mentioned that either Rogers or Dwiggins had presaged this. Tying the front matter pages together falls into the "nice if you can get it" category, which needs to be abandoned if the text/material requires it. Shoehorning a design is as bad as shoehorning a text.

Where I think you could use some work is on the CT, HT, and title page. You have movement on the title page and chapter titles, but the title page builds up a strong vertical line in the center, whereas the chapter openers build a stronger wandering line. You could try moving the title (on the title page) right, and the imprint quite a bit left, still keeping the ragged left/ragged right structure they now have. That would suggest your chapter title solution.

It might also look terrible. Such playfullness has to
set, printed out, and looked at after a passage of some time. You also have to be willing to look at the piece as "it" rather than "mine."

The thing with the half title is it looks so conventional. Turn the page, and "surprise." This rarely works well . . . visual tension and release need to occur on the same spread. But you almost pull it off, since the halftitle itself doesn't introduce tension, just sets you up for it. I'm not quite sure the title page resolves the initial surprise.

When you don't use ornamentation, you wind up using space for the same effect. This is what I do, too. I have no skill with using ornaments, and not too much with using rules. But space offers similar opportunities . . .

It looks to me like you have carried it off well, but to be sure, print out the pages, trim them to final size, and slip them in a bound book. That will show you the spatial arrangements as they will be in the final book.

Good luck with it,

Charles

Will Powers's picture
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I have just not had the time I wanted to devote to this thread. & that's too bad (for me), for this sort of discussion is my meat and potatoes, my chorizo and eggs.

For now let me say that the chapter opener needs work. That initial is not working.

** It is too bold for the rest of the page and the rather delicate look of the rest of the book. If you wish to use such a large initial, use a Titling or a Display or a Light face. They are drawn proportionately lighter than text faces, so they do not overpower when set large.

** The difficulty of using initial caps (drop or stick-up) shows when you have such an unfortunate combination as "at". Poor little "t" is stranded there, not connected to anything. It needs to be drawn over close to "A" so the word unit is retained.

** & then we get back to the weight of the "A", for it will now really overshadow the "t".

** When an initial cap "A" starts things off, the left ends of subsequent lines need to "slide" down the right stroke of "A". "I" starting the 2nd line is far too close to the cap. It should be at least the distance of an average word space away from the bottom serif of "A".

I also think that perhaps the chapter number is too large or the chapter title is too small. But I do not know how many chapters, nor do I know the longest/shortest chapter titles. But I sure am glad you did not include the word "Chapter" with the number. That's one of the dumbest redundancies in book design; thanks.

I may have a few more thoughts, but the day's travail is starting to roll in. So I sign off for now.

powers

petezoe's picture
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Joined: 29 Jan 2009 - 3:43pm
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Thanks for the feedback!

First, I totally agree about the hyphenation in the epigraph. I think somewhere along the line hyphenation got turned on by mistake when I synced styles in my InDesign book document. But in any case, I hadn't noticed it.

Here are a couple of additional samples...

Part Title
Jacket (PDF)

(It's the hardcover dust jacket. I put some markers in the bleed area to show where the flaps and spine fall, etc. Those will be removed before printing, obviously. Oh, and presumably Philip Roth's "blurb" will be replaced with a real one.)

I used the part title as a model for the half-title, and the front cover as a model for the title page. Knowing this may clarify my process, without making the actual design make more sense?

In any case, I've already printed everything out. All the pages are sitting in a box at the moment, until I can come back to them with slightly fresher eyes. The idea of trimming everything down and binding the pages is a great one. I printed the crop marks, but there's still all this white space around the trim area, meaning it's difficult to see exactly how it's going to look at size, on paper. I think it'll help a lot to have the thing trimmed and bound in my hand.

One thing that occurs to me is that I might change the chapter title rather than the title. Perhaps the chapter number and title could be leftish and the text could be rightish, to mimic the arrangement of the title page. I can almost see it in my mind's eye.

Anyway. Thanks again for the great feedback and suggestions!

petezoe's picture
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Oh, hey, I totally missed the thing about the drop cap--I guess you posted just before I did, so I thought my own comment was the latest.

Inspired by this, I knew I wanted a drop cap with a big indent, but whatever I tried there's that giant gap between the letter and what follows, and when I played around with converting the cap to outlines and flowing text around it, it just got uglier ... And then there's that one outlier chapter that starts with a quote, which is weird.

I think maybe I'll play around with doing the first line in small caps or something.

There was a time in my life when I favored chapter numbers all spelled out, with the word "chapter"--Chapter Ten, Chapter Eighteen, Chapter Ninety-Eight. I think it had something to do with that Neil Simon play, Chapter Two. Nowadays I like a number and a title. I guess the number isn't required, really--either a number or a title would suffice. That's the way they did it in The Blind Assassin, if I recall correctly.

Hmmm...

Thanks!!

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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But I sure am glad you did not include the word “Chapter” with the number. That’s one of the dumbest redundancies in book design; thanks.

Well, I've been know on more than one occasion to use CHAPTER ONE (etc.) with, say, 11-point small caps. A lot of letterspacing, but not so much as to lose the rule-like effect. And that's of course the point, to replace a rule.

Moral, at least to me, is that you don't need the word chapter, as Will says, it is redundant. But you can use it like an ornament if it helps with the balance on a CO page.

Will Powers's picture
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"CHAPTER":
I'll back off a bit, Charles and Matt. I have also used CHAPTER as an "ornament" on a page. Caps. I do like, though, to get rid of what I consider to be "unnecessary" type on a page. That's one of them.

CHAPTER NUMBER:
If the author / editor has given me a text with numbered chapters, I doubt I'd ever make the decision to get rid of the numbers. They can be useful guides. Even sometimes in fiction. I rarely spell out chapter numbers.

INITIAL CAP:
To get letters to fit well following an initial cap often does take some doing. Same with subsequent lines sliding down the A. Or getting the first line snug to an L.

I have my own set of tricks for that in Quark. As much work as they are, they are a walk in the park compared to when I had to do them with a saw and files and bits of copper in hot metal. But the boss and other designers demanded that sort of thing. It stuck, I guess.

powers

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Ragged right for friction.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Cutting edge at that, Nick :-)

ChrisL

petezoe's picture
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@will powers:

Re: "chapter": No worries. I wasn't disagreeing about the use of the word "chapter," just saying that I used to prefer it, and now I don't. I do see how it could have its uses, just not so much in this case.

Re: numbers: I'm the author, so I could dump the chapter number if I wanted, but I'm not going to. It was just a fleeting temptation.

@Nick Shinn & dezcom: LOL!

petezoe's picture
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Some updates...

Title Page (Cf. old version)
Epigraph (without hyphenation)
Chapter Opening (Cf. old version)

I definitely prefer the new CO to the old. I'm not sure about the title page. It definitely fits with the HT and part title. But maybe it's a little plain? And does the arrangement of the author name and imprint make any sense?

(There's a kind of "notch" in the imprint, an empty space in the upper right corner, as if the author name might have "exploded" out of it, and this kind of mimics the way the chapter number sits in a big open square on the CO page ... or does it?)

Will Powers's picture
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This CO is a lot more calm; that's good. But it shows us a quandary; or maybe it's a quibble. I'm not comfortable with "THE" being separated from "Speaker." I have almost completely stopped writing specs that say something like "set the entire first line all caps [or all smalls, or italic, or semi, etc]." I have also stopped writing specs that say something like "set the first 3 words all smalls [etc.]." Because we are bound to run into such "unnatural" disruptions. It is a syntax/context thing, I suppose. I like to keep together what appear to me to be "natural" word groups, so the sentence flows better.

& what do we do when we find the first line has to end with a long word which needs to be hyphenated? Do we end up setting the word in two different styles? I hope not.

In this CO "THE" could easily be shoved down to connect with "Speaker," but then we might have too much word spacing or too much letterspacing. It could be argued that this setting could use some tracking in the first line anyway, so that may not be a big deal. But far too often there are intractable combinations encountered with these kinds of settings.

But then I often ask myself, and have just asked myself as I type this comment "Are you crazy, Powers? Are you thinking about this too hard?" Sometimes I can do that.

Other than that, this works nicely. I think I may like it because it is the kind of CO setting I've used often enough myself.

The title page also looks a bit more "natural," a bit less forced than the earlier one.

powers

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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Matt,

Please take this in the context that "You'll never please everyone."

For me, capitals, whether full or small, are formal, strong, "majestic."

If that's what you want for the first line of each chapter with your novel, OK. But again for me, a first line, esp of a story, shouldn't stick out that much. That small caps are also in some sense weaker than U&lc (they are smaller in size when you include the ascenders) just further complicates matters. Caps can also function as a rule, but you're not using rules in your CT, so that's not really at play, and it is very hard to make them work as a stand-alone rule.

Bear in mind, if you keep posting your design, we're probably going to keep coming back. Some of the remarks may be more prejudice than substance. I've been a book show juror just once; it was one of the hardest things I've done, because again, you have to abandon the "mine" (my preferences) & go with the "it" (does it work?), but when you have 8-10 hours and 400 books, there is so little time to make that transition. Much the same on the internet, I fear.

Best you as the can do as the designer of the book is to take the remarks & wonder if something in your treatment could make the "remarker" see the whole as you see it. Counterweighting that, the design also has to be finished.

Charles

petezoe's picture
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Joined: 29 Jan 2009 - 3:43pm
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Powers, thanks much!

I have run into exactly the problem you describe -- but it's even worse in other chapters. For example, something like:

       AFTER I HAD GONE TO THE SOMETHING OR OTHER, I
did something else again or whatever. And so on and so forth.

I'm too lazy to go hunting for the actual example, but that gives a sense of it. In that case, and others, I did adjust the word spacing to bump a word to the next line or pull the second half of a hyphenated word back onto the first line or whatever was needed.

Then there was the case where the first paragraph contained one short sentence, so that the portion of it in small caps was longer than the portion that was not. Nothing to be done about that, really.

I never tried it without any kind of stylistic embellishment on the first line. I tried it with Whitman small caps, and I didn't like it. I did rather like having the Scala in the chapter title and also on the first line. But I'll try it with nothing except the indent and see how that looks. It's not as if it's going to be ambiguous that a new chapter has started, after all.

Thanks!!