05 October 2006

What I learned today

Did you know that it's most appropriate to use left-justified text when writing to "the poor"? I didn't either, but one of my students told me this today in no uncertain terms.

It's amazing what they choose to skip in the grad school curriculum these days.

Any poor people out there who'd like to comment on this? Do you prefer left-justified text? Why?


PS - This blog entry is left-justified in of the spirit of economic inclusion.

1 comment:

Doubtful Muse said...

I'm not entirely sure I can speak for all of them, but I can speak on behalf of one segment of "the poor" -- publishers.

Apparently, your "well-educated" student has got it exactly backwards. The reason full-justification is frequently used both by newspapers (I know this because my dad was a newspaperman) and book publishers (I know this because I am one) is because it allows you to cram more words into limited space, thus saving paper. And money. So the poor are more likely to afford it.

Now that refers to expert typesetting, which allows for much more control over leding (spaces between letters and words).

The case for ragged right often depends on readability (although there are conflicting studies on that) and it's most frequently used in academic journals (not standard textbooks which are mostly justified, possibly to keep the price down) and training materials.

Maybe your student's opinion is based on the idea that the typical word processor does such a crappy job on justification that ragged right is popular among those too cheap to invest in decent digital typesetting software?

If you find out, I hope you will post about it. Inquiring minds want to know.