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9 through 12

If you looked at the check box links on the home page, this page may already seem familiar. If not, you can read the summary of The 12-Step Peatah Process here. Now let’s look at the specifics ...

Setting type on computers using old typewriter habits is comparable to trying to get your car to stop by yelling “WHOA.”

Please. Let’s move up to the 1980s. Peatah wants to make sure you’re on the same page with typographers in the know. As such, the following steps apply directly to typewriters and their habits we have hung on to (since typewriter use spanned about 120 years).

Here are the 12 steps for recovering from typewriters:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

#1. Avoid mono.

Monospacing is rarely used in typesetting. One exception would be when you purposely want numbers to line up in a column. But, since Peatah is trying to make fine typographers out of its visitors (not accountants), let’s just rule out monospaced type, shall we?

What is monospaced type? Look at image 1. The metal keys on a typewriter are spaced equally so they don’t bind up when they hit the page and return back to their place. This doesn’t allow any characters to overlap into spaces of other characters. So, a comma has just as much room around it on the page as does the capital M.

What is proportional spacing? This is how software reads in not just the shapes of the fonts you use, but also the spacing parameters built into quality fonts by the type designers. So, when you set two lowercase Ls together, they will take less space in the line than, say, two capital Ls.
Here’s an example:


The typewriter Williams, on the left, are the same width.
The Williams on the right are proportionally-spaced.
(Typeface: Georgia. Thank you, Matthew Carter!)

#2. Don’t wear out the space bar.

One of the troubles with the monospacing of typewriters is that the character spacing appears uneven (instead of proportional). Sometimes the space at the end of a sentence seems lost among the space between letters. To make this more clear on typewritten pages, the habit was to put two spaces after the end of a sentence. This gave the reader an obvious gap to flag the end of the sentence. Now granted, this habit didn’t actually start with typewriters. It just seemed to help with readability of typewritten copy. But, as proportionally-spaced type began to replace monospaced typewriter type, the gaps looked too big. So, now if you use the two spaces it looks like a mistake most think is based on typewriter practices.

With proportionally-spaced typesetting, this also leaves an obvious gap at the end of a sentence. But, now it’s distracting to reading, as the well-spaced type doesn’t need this “band aid” for readability. One space only, please.

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#3. Don’t wear out the space bar.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that the same as number 2? Well, yes. But, it applies to another typewriter habit. Since monospaced type lines up so well, some folks assume they can hit the spacebar until type lines up in columns.

That doesn’t work with proportionally-spaced type. No matter how well things line up on your screen, it’s not going to stay that way for everybody. You’ve probably seen some weird alignment in an e-mail or two, right?

Set tabs instead. That’s why word processors offer the option.
Or, create muliple columns on your pages.

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#4. Hash is for Whos. Use proper quotes.

Did you catch the Dr. Seuss reference? (Classic literature, by the way.) Hash marks, or hatch marks, or tick marks—whatever you want to call them—are a major typewriter handicap. Typewriters don’t have any hidden special characters. So, when typewriting, many characters are multi-purpose. An inch mark is the same as an open quote mark and a closed quote mark and a seconds mark. And, a foot mark=a single open quote=a single close quote=an apostrophe, and=a minutes mark. Efficient, maybe. But not very aesthetic. What’s sad is many people still think those marks are all the same.

"These are not quotation marks." “These are.”
This is'nt an apostrophe. This mark’s an apostrophe.

Luckily, many software programs have default settings to use what they call “typographer’s quotes” or “correct quotes” automatically. If so, then you just need to turn off these type preferences when you really want inches and feet or seconds and minutes. Actually, those are called prime marks, but many typefaces don’t include correct versions of these characters. Correct prime marks are a little slanted. So, if your typeface doesn’t include them, use the hatch marks with the italic version of the typeface.

All these special characters can work on websites, too. Visit this page by Peter K. Sheerin to see the proper coding and possibilities.

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#5. Emphasize no underlines.

What’s another big shortcoming of typewriters? Just one font per machine. And no bold or italic variations of it. So, without these options, typewritten copy relies on underlines to emphasize words.

When would you use underlines in your typography? How about never. Or, how about if you want you type to look like it came from a typewriter ... there you go! Otherwise, stick to italics or bolds or colors or size variations or typeface changes for emphasis. That way, readers won’t think your underlined type is a hypertext link!

Speaking of which ...

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#6. Use “double dash” only in recipes.

Another multi-purpose key on the typewriter is the hyphen. Typists use two hyphens in lieu of an em dash. But, hyphens should only be used for hyphenating words (hence the name).

If you want to insert a change of thought within a sentence—or show you are a skilled typographer—use an em dash instead of two hyphens. There, see? I just did that in the last sentence. An em dash is about the same width of the capital M in whatever font and size you are using. And, it is twice as wide as an en dash.

An en dash is used where you might otherwise type “to” within a range, such as: “8:00 – 8:30 is when they show Looney Tunes.”

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#7. Back to the ol’ space bar: quit using it for indents.

The most common ways to indicate a new paragraph are to skip a line of space (like I’m doing on this page) or to indent the first line of a new paragraph. Notice how I made the word or bold. That’s to suggest you should do one or the other; both would be overkill.

Remember how you would hit the space bar five times for an indent on a typewriter? Well remember: that is monospaced type. So, each indent is always the same.

The general rule for proportionally-spaced type is to use an em space for indents. Remember, number 6 stated an em space was based on the typeface and size you are using. So, text set in 10-point type should have an indent width of about 10 points, or the same width of the capital M. Usually, a first line indent can be set on your tab rulers, depending on the program you use.

This brings up another rule that isn’t just tied to typewriter habits. This one may not seem right to you; but, trust me on this:

If first line indents indicate the start of a new paragraph, then you don’t indent the first paragraph. (You aren’t having to separate it from a preceding paragraph.)

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#8. ALL CAPS? Don’t be so demanding.

This one’s like the underline step in number 5. Since typewriters don’t have variations in the font like bolds and italics, many times typists will use all caps for a headline or other text that needs to be more dominant. In today’s typography, all caps appears to be shouting or indicates less-than-friendly communication. Plus, all caps within a normally-set sentence causes a distracting jump in reading.

Keep it friendly. Unless you really want to shout, use bold, italic, or small caps for emphasis. However, keep emphasizing to a minimum ... otherwise, it won’t be emphasizing anymore. (Sort of like too much use of a spot color losing impact. But, that’s a whole different lesson off the typewriter topic.)

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Steps #9 – 12: please re-read step number 4 four times.

You say, “redundant.” I say, “important.”

Okay, back to the Teachings list ...

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