Follow the (Typesetting) Rules

There are many details of print design that separate the professional from the amateur. Understanding the rules of type is one of them. While headings, graphics, and logos can push the boundaries, body copy should follow some basic rules. Let’s look at five of them.

  1. Eliminate widows and orphans.

Widows and orphans are when small words or parts of words fall by themselves on their own line. These should be eliminated through editing or tracking.

  1. Fix floating lines.

Every paragraph should have at least three lines. If a column or page break divides a paragraph so that only one or two lines fall on the next column or page, adjust the spacing.

  1. Don’t stack words or hyphens.

Sometimes strange things happen in paragraphs. Hyphen will occasionally fall at the end of the line, and even more occasionally, this will happen on two lines in a row. The result is visually uncomfortable. (Designers often call this “pig bristles.”) A similar thing can occur when two identical words fall at the end of a line right above and below one another. When these anomalies happen, tweak the spacing to shift things around.

  1. Fix rivers and loose lines.

Justified spacing works well in most cases, but occasionally, it creates giant gaps and awkward spaces in the middle of lines. “Rivers” are visual gaps that run down a paragraph of text as a result of these gaps. “Loose lines” are individual lines containing poorly spaced elements.

  1. Pretty up the rags.

When you have left aligned text, the right-hand margin of the paragraph will have uneven line spacing that can either be visually attractive or highly unappealing. You want the rag pattern to be attractive to the eye, but not with giant differences between line lengths, sloping alignment of lines, or with rags that create diagonal shapes.

These typography no-nos can be fixed using simple tracking, light editing, or resizing of elements. When you take the extra time and effort, it can make the difference between a piece that looks professional and one that doesn’t.

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Is Print Personalization a Gimmick?

Print personalization — you hear about it everywhere. Use printed pieces to talk directly to recipients based on name, gender, past purchase history, or other information to achieve higher response rates and better return on investment (ROI). Is this really a smart marketing approach? Or is it just a gimmick to get you to buy more print?

Consider the way you are being marketed to. When you shop online, cookies follow your every move so that when you return to the page, the view is customized to your preferences. At the grocery store, your receipt is printed with coupons based on the items you just purchased. When you receive mail from your financial services provider, it contains information only on those funds in which you have invested.

Personalization has become so ingrained in our consumer experience that it’s just become our default expectation. If you aren’t incorporating 1:1 print into your print marketing, you are out of step with the overall trend in marketing.

What about cost? Today, every marketing cost is increasingly scrutinized. Although marketers tend to think of 1:1 printing as a high-cost luxury, when handled properly, the opposite is true.

  • 1:1 printing optimizes your marketing investment by not mailing irrelevant information to the wrong people. It makes every record count.
  • 1:1 printing provides provable ROI so you can compare its value against other marketing methods and justify your spending based on real numbers.
  • By generating higher response rates and per-order values from targeted customer segments, you can spend less and bring in more revenues.
  • More relevant communications (including newsletters, bills and other correspondence) help companies improve customer retention and reduce turnover. This has a direct impact on the bottom line.

From this perspective, 1:1 printing seems less like a luxury and more like a business necessity.