9 Replies Latest reply on Jan 10, 2017 12:46 PM by MarieMeyer

    What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?

    MarieMeyer Level 1

      I'm working on a design that has 4 narrow columns of text, which means I have a lot of paragraphs that less than ideal because of the way the lines break. Such as:


      Screenshot 2017-01-10 07.39.45.png

      When I can, I tweak the actual text to fix the problem. But when that fails, what type manipulation techniques are professionally acceptable? I've been told tracking 1st, kerning 2nd - is that correct? Any other options? Would I be better off not worrying about it?

        • 1. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
          SJRiegel Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          If you must have the column that narrow, you will get better-looking text if you allow hyphenation.

          • 3. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
            Willi Adelberger Most Valuable Participant
            1. You need hyphenation in such narrows columns.
            2. You have to choose the correct language, even without hyphenation, as a wrong language causes wrong ligatures.
            3. You have to maintain the user dictionaries, as with a primary hyphenation point insert one tilde ~, on secondary two ~~, on possible places, but not so gut insert 3 tildes ~~~ and when you want to avoid hyphenation insert one tilde before the entry in the dictionary.
            4. In the paragraph styles, go the section Justification and make settings to adjust spaces between glyphs and words.
            • 4. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
              Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

              Going beyond what has already been offered -- yes, hyphenation (and hyphenation settings, to fine-tune where hyphenation happens),  and reducing type size to increase the character count will help. Both of which will help increase the character count per line, and reduce the likelihood that you'll get the bad breaks you see as raggedy right margins for your copy.


              I would stay away from both kerning and tracking type to get better line breaks. Cheating spacing between characters beyond really minimal differences can greatly affect the readability of your copy. By alternative, I'd suggest you consider an alternative to increase your character count per line: character width.


              The following example shows two columns of Lorem Ipsum type. They're set in Times New Roman, 12-point type with 13.5 points leading. The first column is at 100 percent; the second is at 95 percent width:


              95 percent copyfit.jpg


              Setting the type at 95% width globally got me four more lines of text in the text frame, on a letter-sized page with default margins, set in four columns halfway down the page. It also greatly improved the rag on the right side of the column, compared to the example at left. Type snobs may howl that I've distorted the purity of the original letterforms, but if they actually catch me by comparing the last word fugit at the end of the first paragraph, I'd truly be surprised.


              Still, I've got a single word orphan at the bottom of the first paragraph. I don't want that little fugit hanging out all by itself. So if I highlight that first paragraph by quickly quadruple clicking in it -- one-two-three-four -- and reducing the character width 2 more percent to 93, I can skip that little fugit up and hide it in the previous line, like so:

              93 percent 1st graf copyfit.jpg


              Now you have to be careful changing the character width of an individual paragraph in text. Going past 3-4 percent variation from paragraph to paragraph in a page spread will get likely you caught at your tricks. Comparing the paragraph at 100 percent to the left to the 1st graf at 93 percent gives indications of some shenanigans. But compared to the 95% width of the 2nd paragraph below, the quick fix is not quite so evident.


              In both instances, the letterspacing settings are unaffected and I'd contend the readability of the text is unaffected. Hopefully this will help you get a little better copyfit from your problematic line breaks.


              If you find this helpful, please rate this question as answered so it will be refiled where others who may have the same problems can find it. Good luck with your work.

              1 person found this helpful
              • 5. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
                Sandee Cohen Adobe Community Professional

                I was taught that fiddling with character width should only be done on a page basis. But it's tricky since you have to check that if you pull stuff back onto the page, you'll have to apply the character width change to that new text. 95% is a little extreme. 98% is the most I would ever do.

                • 6. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
                  Randy Hagan Adobe Community Professional

                  Hi Sandee.


                  I don't know what to say about what you were taught, but I generally respect anybody's calls for how they would lay out a job. I can only respond with how I'd lay out mine.


                  Mild changes of character width -- globally -- will leave little evidence of the crime. If the whole job is set at that mildly reduced width, consistency is maintained and most art directors wouldn't be able to spot it without comparison against a type spec book. For folks outside the trade, it'll never be noticed. Certainly if you reduced character width down to 90% to effectively create your own "condensed" type with InDesign, you'd really be pushing the envelope. With a serifed font like InDesign's default Minion Pro, I find I get good, near-invisible results at using a global 95% character width. I find that you can get away with a little more compression with serifed fonts than sans-serifed ones, but I feel that the font itself is more an arbiter than some arbitrary percentage. Your mileage may vary ...


                  That's just my bias. In fact, the one I exercise using that font (Minion Pro) and character width (95%) for body copy in all my promotional materials and training workbooks.


                  Now if we're talking about fiddling with character width in a single paragraph to kill a line orphan, I'd be more circumspect. Like the second screen capture in my response above, the difference between 100% in the first column and 93% in the first paragraph of the second, is pretty distinct. But if you got rid of that reverse highlighting, the difference between 93% and 95% is much harder to discern. If I have to squeeze a paragraph by like 4% to get my copyfit, I'll condense the rest of the paragraphs on the page spread a couple of percentage points too to diminish the net effect. But that's why I don't do any copyfit fixes until the absolute last version of the job. Because copyedit/proofing/layout changes can move page breaks and rat me out to even casual readers if I'm indiscriminate about them ...

                  • 7. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
                    BarbBinder Adobe Community Professional

                    My 2 cents: I was taught to aim for 40–60 characters per line for optimal legibility.

                    • 8. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
                      Pariah Burke Adobe Community Professional

                      In my experience, plus or minus up to 3% of character width is unnoticeable to all but the most interested eye. More than that and experienced eyes begin to notice. More than 5% wider or narrower and even untrained eyes begin to notice the difference in horizontal and vertical stroke weights.

                      • 9. Re: What are the best ways to tweak text that is breaking badly?
                        MarieMeyer Level 1

                        Thanks everyone, there is some great stuff in this thread. If any of you have the time and inclination, would you be willing to look at some PDF pages from this project and let me know what you think? Any suggestions you could offer for improving it would be welcome. This layout has the disadvantage of the narrow column widths but the advantage to resulting in just about the right number of entries per page. (Too many entries per page and I have problems with fitting in all the swatches).


                        Here is the link.


                        Dropbox - Inside.pdf