A Layout Editor’s Gripes

In my work as the office adminstrator, I spend a fair amount of time putting other peoples words on paper and trying to make them look good. It’s not always as easy or as straightforward as it should be. Ideally, I set up a documents formatting, copy text into it, polish a little and print. Rarely is it that easy. Some things are just harder to format then others, and limited space (or occasionally too much) means that the polishing step takes longer and requires more than I think it ought. The most frustrating piece of the process is spending time undoing the formatting that the text authors send me.below is some advice that will help anyone submitting text for publication in any form.

First lets talk about what I do. I am not your content editor. In fact, I try not to have to read the text I work with. From my view its just letter, words and paragraphs. I am the layout guy, and my goal is to put your text and everyone elses into one publication and make it look like they all belong together. If one person uses all caps for the title while a second uses a large font size and a third changes the font to comic sans the everything just looks messy. I make titles a consistent format, all paragraphs use the same shape, use a common font and a page layout that makes it easy to read.

Here are some why you can help make my job easier:

Postscript: Ah the days of the typewriter

A lot of the bad habits people have come from a time when the only tools most people had for writing were a pen and a typewriter. Typewriters had some real limitations and rules were developed to work around those limits. For example a typewriter only has one font you cannot make it larger or smaller, or change the size or shape. That limited formatting to a very few choices. All caps was a good way to make a title stand out, and underlining was about the only way to distinguish text in the body of a paragraph. Another limitation was the fixed width. Every letter took the same amount of space.

Professional organizations quickly created rules that allowed for common formatting of important documents, and schools soon took up a set of those rules and taught them to generations of students as good document design. And they are good document design, if all you have is a typewriter. In modern word processors there are better tools. The tools that the publishing industry has been using the whole time. Pull out a book or magazine from the 1950’s (I know you have a collection in your garage) do they indent 5 spaces or print their titles centered in all caps? Probably not.