Widows don’t offend
As a communicator producing various publications, you do more than merely write text – you also need to make decisions about the typesetting and layout of the text you write.
A great help with this type of information is research conducted by Colin Wheildon, former editor of Australia’s largest motoring publication. With one million readers, Wheildon wanted to maximize the effectiveness of his printed words.
His findings from several ‘hands-on’ tests of type and layout, relate mainly to newspapers and magazines, which are typeset in columns:
- No readers said they were offended by – or even aware of – widows. Purist editors hate ‘widows’ – a short line completing a paragraph that finishes at the top of the next column or page. To the contrary, the research found that a widow actually creates the benefit (to the editor) of encouraging the reader to continue to the next column or page.
- 38% of readers found body text typeset wider than 60 characters (including spaces) hard to read. A further 22% indicated they probably wouldn’t read wide-measure body type even if they didn’t find it difficult to read.
- 87% said they found extremely narrow measure hard to read, eg fewer than 20 characters.
- 78% said they found cross headings useful, especially in long articles. None said they found cross headings unattractive or intrusive.
- Jumps, where an article continues on a later page, really annoy readers. Around 83% didn’t bother to make the effort to jump to the later page/s. About 39% said that when they jumped to continue reading an article on another page, they realized they frequently didn’t return to the original page.
- More than three quarters (77%) of readers were annoyed when body type jumped over an illustration or sub-heading contrary to the natural flow of reading, ie in the middle of a sentence or paragraph.
(Although Colin Wheildon’s original book is out of print, a more recent version is available under the title: Type & Layout: are you communicating or just making pretty shapes? Author Colin Wheildon, publisher The Worsley Press, Melbourne, Australia, 2007.)