Is your content good-looking? Fast editing and typographic upgrades

The things that make your digital content look unprofessional are not limited to typos and grammar snafus. If you misuse formatting and typographic conventions your website, blog, brochures and other content will look amateurish and make your readers doubt your expertise.

Editors and copyeditors look not only at grammar and spelling but also at content style and presentation. We want to edit out anything that looks mediocre or distracting so the reader pays attention to the information.

Below are the top 5 typesetting and formatting edits The Red Stairs editors fix over and over again. Avoid them and you will be well on your way to good-looking content.

Use a single space after a period

There is only one space after a period.

Every manual of style from the Associated Press to the Chicago Manual of Style prescribes a single space after a period.

If you want your finished writing to look professional, don’t use two spaces after a period.

If you type two spaces after a period it means you learned your keyboarding skills in ancient times… on a typewriter. When every character on the page was the same width, adding an extra space changed the visual rhythm and made the text easier to read.

Today’s electronic devices have come a long way. Now proportional fonts automatically adjust to give each character the right amount of space. Narrow letters such as “i” and wide characters such as “W” get just the space they need to read well.

The double space after a period is redundant; it hinders the reader’s flow and it creates ugly gaps that run like rivers up and down the page. For your blog, brochures, eBooks or any other published content, use a single space after a period.

Use hyphens and dashes correctly

A hyphen, that little dash on your keyboard between the “0” and the “=”, has four uses.

  1. Indicate a word break.
  2. Create a compound word such as “pick-me-up.”
  3. Indicate a missing or implied element, for example short- and long-term. This is called a hanging hyphen.
  4. A mathematical sign for subtraction.

When you want to show a range, such as 10–15 or May–September, you need to use an “en” dash. It is slightly wider than a hyphen.

10-15

10–15

To show a disjointed or strong shift in tone or thought within a sentence — use an “em” dash. It takes up the same space as the characters “em” and is wider than both the hyphen and the “en” dash.

The “em” dash can also be used as a pair — setting off a non-essential clause or word — in much the same way as parentheses.

Most keyboards don’t have an “em” or an “en” dash so you have to use a special function key. In Word go to Advanced Symbols a button found under the Insert drop-down menu.

Use quote marks correctly with periods and commas

In American English punctuation marks go inside the quotation marks.

“punctuation goes inside quotation marks”,

“punctuation goes inside quotation marks,”

Avoid “widows” and “orphans”

Small bits of text that become separated from their paragraphs create odd spacing and make the flow of text difficult to follow. Careful editing is often the best way to correct these typesetting problems although spacing can be edited in most good layout programs.

What is a widow?

When the last line of a paragraph ends at the top of a new column or page.

What is an orphan?

When the last word of a paragraph is on a new line or a paragraph that begins on the last line of a column of text.

Don’t indent after a headline

If you are using indents, do not indent the first line after a headline. Subsequent paragraphs can be indented.

Further reading

For a graphic design perspective on the value of typographic design, take  a look at this story by John Siebert, Tranquil Blue published in Website Magazine  

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The Red Stairs • (314) 223 0235 • 2101 Locust St. • St. Louis • MO 63103 • USA


The Red Stairs works in American English and British English.

We can localize content for both markets.