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Old 02-04-2005, 05:30 PM   #1
annc
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Default Letter Spacing and Italics

(I'm posting this for George)

I noticed recently that my transliterated Greek words in my web page, which are italicized, looked squished, especially the one in a sub-heading. Transliterated words from another language looked just like italicized English, but then, it seemed to me that even those words had a tighter letter spacing than a normal font.

From time to time in this forum, I have seen posting reviewing how to make italicized print more readable, primarily through font-family selection. I have quite a bit of italicized text, due to a special quoting format. I‚m going to enlarge the Greek transliteration spacing, at least in the sub-heading, but now I‚m wondering if I should consider playing with the letter spacing in all those italicized quotes in English to make them more readable. Has anyone ever experimented with this approach?? Perhaps, it wouldn‚t contrast well with the normal text; or perhaps, it just wouldn‚t really be any more readable. Right now I‚m thinking about monitor screen viewing, not print; but I suppose I should at the same time consider both forms of transmission.

(It seems really weird to me how it‚s just Greek words that tighten up more in italicizing. But, I know this isn‚t my imagination).

George

   
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Old 02-06-2005, 02:35 PM   #2
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I wish I had an answer for this. Is it possible to post a URL so we can take a look.
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Old 02-06-2005, 04:46 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew B.
I wish I had an answer for this. Is it possible to post a URL so we can take a look.
I'm not used to this software, and I couldn't find the new thread button, so by e-mail I asked staff to make the post. (I don't know how well I'll do with this post either). However, the thread title is not what my question is about. Let me quote myself.

<<but now I'm wondering if I should consider playing with the letter spacing in all those italicized quotes in English to make them more readable.>>

The Greek word in a heading I had made me look at italicizing more closely. Then, I started to wonder if I should play around with letter spacing in italicized text in English. It just seems the letter spacing is tighter in italic in general. I was asking in general if anyone ever played with italicised letter spacing to make it more readable. I have quite a bit of italicised text in certain parts of my web page, due to a special quoting format, so it's a question of particular interest to me.

(As far as the Greek text is concerned, I don't have that much, and I'll figure that part out routinely. Maybe, I'll just leave it tight--who looks at Greek words that close anyway--or maybe, I'll loosen it a bit. However, I could post a word or two transliterated and italicize it, if you're interested--but most people don't review Greek manuscripts, unless they're that much into history or something.)

Thank you for your response.

George

Ok, now I'm editiing this. Here are some Greek words italicised:
ekkremamai
endechetai
Now let's compare that to English
attentive
admitted
Hmm-- looks the same here, but maybe not in bold.

Last edited by George; 02-06-2005 at 04:56 PM.
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Old 02-06-2005, 05:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George
… but now I'm wondering if I should consider playing with the letter spacing in all those italicized quotes in English to make them more readable.

The Greek word in a heading I had made me look at italicizing more closely. Then, I started to wonder if I should play around with letter spacing in italicized text in English. It just seems the letter spacing is tighter in italic in general. I was asking in general if anyone ever played with italicised letter spacing to make it more readable.
I would not do that, for a few reasons:

1. You do not control what others are seeing — neither font or type-size. So any letter-spacing you set up would be done in the blind.

2. More important: Yes, italics are closely spaced, by design. Spacing the characters apart is likely to make the text harder to read as it disrupts the word images.

3. The problem with most sans-serif fonts, especially those likely to be in use on the web, is that you don’t get true italics — you get slanted roman letters. So, yes, sometimes letters can collide (r and n are notorious for making what appears to be an m). But the solution is not to space the text apart — it would make more sense to use a serif face for the italicized text. Take a look at Georgia (or even Times) italics compared to Verdana or — the worst culprit: Arial.

4. You many not be familiar with it, but there is a typographers’ expression: A person who would letter-space small letters would steal sheep. It’s not just bad form; it is hard to read.

   
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Old 02-07-2005, 08:09 AM   #5
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KT:

The solution might be to use a Greek font designed to be 'italic': there are quite a few around, as slanting Greek is the traditional font used for Greek letters in mathematics.

Michael

   
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Old 02-07-2005, 10:57 AM   #6
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I think I see what you are saying–I’d better not play around on the web with letter spacing or things could get distorted for a lot of viewers. Well, if I stick with the fonts I’m using now, one or two squished Greek words won’t seem so bad really.

However, it does appear to me you are saying that I could do my quotes which are in an italic format in Georgia, even though my main text font is Verdana. (Recall I said I had some quotes in English in a special format that used italics). I never thought of that. I did consider Georgia for the title and sub-headings, but I stuck with Verdana for some reason.

I just made some changes, and I think the overall visual affect does work. The italic quotes do stand out much better. I’m not certain about the feel for consistency. I think in the case of having Georgia italic for quotes, then I have to go with Georgia sub-headings; and then, wouldn’t that mean I have to do a Georgia font in the title?? My Verdana as the main body font is at 1em, but I thought the italic quotes in Georgia looked better then in .9em. But, please confirm this for me: that you are saying I could use Georgia italic in quotes with a main body font of Verdana??? If so, I’m going to change the whole document and do some comparison viewing. And, I thought I had this one done!!!

My impression from your response is, that you never play with italic letter spacing in printing either. In hard copy, I did increase the letter spacing on that Greek transliterated word in the sub-heading. It was Franklin Gothic Medium, and for that one instance it was an improvement. The body font was NCS. On the web, I’m going to have a CSS print file, which I’m just about ready to start setting up, and everything will be Georgia for printing, and I’ll see if I can make that one instance of increased spacing, if it looks squished in printing in the Georgia.

Thanks for the response.

George



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Old 02-07-2005, 11:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George
I could do my quotes which are in an italic format in Georgia, even though my main text font is Verdana. (Recall I said I had some quotes in English in a special format that used italics). I never thought of that. I did consider Georgia for the title and sub-headings, but I stuck with Verdana for some reason.
I would not suggest that for ordinary text, but you are doing something unusual, so this would be an unusual solution. Or you could set all your text in Georgia, but that would probably mean that some readers would get Times (their default serif font), and no matter how well done it is, serif type is harder than sans to read on the screen. So I suggested a compromise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by George
I’m not certain about the feel for consistency. I think in the case of having Georgia italic for quotes, then I have to go with Georgia sub-headings; and then, wouldn’t that mean I have to do a Georgia font in the title??
Why? You would be using the Georgia italics for some special terms. I wouldn’t think (abstractly, anyway) why that would call for other changes as you describe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by George
My Verdana as the main body font is at 1em, but I thought the italic quotes in Georgia looked better then in .9em. But, please confirm this for me: that you are saying I could use Georgia italic in quotes with a main body font of Verdana???
As a special handling of your illustrative italics, yet. But Georgia smaller than 1em? Ouch! Especially for those who actually seem them in Times.


Quote:
Originally Posted by George
My impression from your response is, that you never play with italic letter spacing in printing either.
Fooling with letter-spacing (usually called tracking) has its uses. When setting headlines (sizes above 14 points) with fonts designed for setting plain text (12 points or smaller), you may need to tighten letter-spacing. Setting all caps (or small caps), you usually add a bit of space between the letters because fonts are usually not designed to be used for all caps. If you have to use a badly spaced font, you might have to make adjustments when setting text (but it would usually save more time just to buy a better font).

But adding space between lowercase text letters (if it can be seen) is not done normally.

   
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Old 02-08-2005, 08:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
I would not suggest that for ordinary text, but you are doing something unusual, so this would be an unusual solution. Or you could set all your text in Georgia,


I tried it on a complete article. It’s easy with find and replace to make the changes. I keep staring at the article and it works. You’re right, the articles are often unusual in format, and the italic in Georgia makes a very significant improvement, in readability, for scanning, and in general appearance. I really appreciate the suggestion. Originally, I was using Georgia for the main body text, but others talked me into going to san-serif as being a lot more readable, and then you had convinced me from previous posting, that Verdana was the best san-serif for the screen. Somehow, Verdana for normal text and Georgia for italic works out very well. And, the Greek words look so pretty. In fact, Georgia just looks plain good in italic in English and other languages.

Quote:
Why? You would be using the Georgia italics for some special terms. I wouldn’t think (abstractly, anyway) why that would call for other changes as you describe.


One thing I never learn in the forums is to keep the review of one basic idea per post. I often reference several issues at the same time in a post, and that makes reading my message confusing. So, I should have kept the Greek and English italics separate in the posting in this thread.

I do have a lot of quotes in English in a special italic format. I think that by setting the sub-headings now in Georgia, it helps balance the overall appearance with the quotes. But, you were right; I really didn’t even have to do that. I have the titles of the articles in one section aligned left and in Verdana, and in my outline section, they are in Georgia and centered. I like distinguishing the two sections that way, as I think it reinforces that there are different objectives in the sections. It helps each one have its own identity, and they come from two different books I wrote. Now if I do go with Georgia in the sub-headings of this section I’m presently dealing with, again it seems to me that I can stick to Verdana in the title. It seems to look alright.

Quote:
As a special handling of your illustrative italics, yet. But Georgia smaller than 1em? Ouch! Especially for those who actually seem them in Times.


I must have been looking at it in some weird resolution when I thought that.

Quote:
Fooling with letter-spacing (usually called tracking)
That’s so very true. But, CSS doesn’t refer to the attribute as tracking but as letter-spacing, so which terms I use depends on which medium I’m mainly dealing with – not that I’m always that precise with terms anyway in basic conversation.

Quote:
But adding space between lowercase text letters (if it can be seen) is not done normally.


I’ll remember that. But I think Greek transliterations may be the exception. Kathleen, I really have a significant difference. Thanks again.

George
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