Typographic Sins

It has been a while since my last typography related post. So here, as my penance, is a list of typographic sins, with examples (in a PDF) for you to mull over. It’s pretty standard fare. But they are good rules for keeping in mind in order to satisfy your pedantic/designer friends…

  1. Two spaces between sentences.
    Repent of this sin by using only one space.
  2. Dumb quotes instead of smart quotes.
    Evil: “Thou shalt not misuse type” § Good: “Thou shalt not misuse type”
  3. Dumb apostrohe instead of a smart apostrophe.
    Profane: Don’t use prime marks § Sacred: Don’t use prime marks
    By the way, apostrophes always face this way: Pot o’ gold.
    They never face this way: Pot ‘o gold.
  4. Failing to tuck periods/commas inside quote marks.
    Immoral: “I love type so much”, she confessed.
    Chaste: “I love type so much,” she testified.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

9 thoughts on “Typographic Sins”

  1. The last one is a joke. I don’t know who was brain-dead enough to ever think that it was a good idea, or what the authorities were smoking when they dictated this to the rest of us. All I know is that I promise to always let the meaning of the sentence dictate where the punctuation should go, not a stupid and arbitrary rule. It is here I claim the English-is-a-living-language argument, in the hope that sense will prevail, and I’m not budging.

  2. David,

    I’m a big fan of tucking the punctuation inside the quote marks. Because it looks better.

    “,” in my opinion is less clunky than “”,… aesthetics isn’t arbitrary.

    I don’t care what the “academic standards” say Arthur, I’m a rebel without a standard. Like word limits. Punctuation style guides and correct footnoting occasionally get in the way of aesthetics. And I reckon the medium is important to the message.

  3. Really? But don’t you think the comma looks funny. Sitting out there. All alone.

    It’s not like punctuating brackets where the punctuation sits nicely nestled against the bracket e.g “),” there’s a funny space under the quote marks if the comma or full stop goes outside them e.g “this”, I was pretty sure the punctuation mark inside the quote was both reflective of normal English usage, and more aesthetically pleasing. It was, in my opinion, the least controversial of all the points at that link.

  4. My pedant alert is scaring the neighbours now — better make this quick.

    There’s a purely visual aesthetic but there’s also an aesthetic of reading, in which punctuation comes after the quote — which simply reflects the order of things as your eyes scan a sentence. What I mean is, there are two standards for #4, and I can understand why.

  5. I’m with Nathan on #4, though I’m pretty sure “the real rules” depend on which country you’re in. Americans fall squarely in the #4 box, but I think Brits are the reverse.

    As for #1 — I think I’ve already said all I have to say here in the comments: http://ben-vanishingpoint.blogspot.com/2010/10/space-bar.html

    As for #2 and #3 — am I going crazy or do those quotes not actually show up as smart quotes in the example?? I think I actually prefer the dumb ones …

  6. Have to disagree with number four. That is only the convention in America. The British and Australian code is different. Tucking the final period of a sentence into a half-sentence quote is bad, bad, bad – and our house style here is to move it! I’m pretty sure that if you look up the Australian Style Manual Number Four is wrong – though the example you give is not a particularly bad one.

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