Typography matters: Perfect your punctuation

By September 12, 2016design

Typography isn’t just for designers and font nerds like me. We make important decisions about the characters and symbols we use to communicate every day, especially in today’s digital age. Typography is all about details – and they matter!

You should take care of what typography is saying about you, and your business, especially if you work in public relations, media, branding or design. Incorrect use of type will impact readability and even your project outcomes.

The little things are what make a big difference! This is why:

Typography: The Ampersand
1. The Ampersand

Ampersands are beautiful. I love the different styles, the form, shape, and curves. They are a thing of beauty but need to be used and applied in the right way. I repeat: they need to be used & applied in the right way.

An ampersand doesn’t flow as easily for the reader. It takes longer for the brain to register an ampersand than it does to read ‘and’ as text (did you notice the ampersand at the end of the last paragraph?). The shape, size, and negative space created by an ampersand break the regular pattern of typography that we become accustom to reading.

I did mention I love them. Ampersands have their place: in a short headline or logo. Ampersands have no place in paragraphs and body copy – there is a reason they don’t appear throughout novels. It’s a frustrating hiccup you don’t want for your readers.

Typography: Quotation Marks VS Feet and Inch Marks
2. Quotation Marks

Are you using inch marks as quotation marks? Stop it! Even though they appear similar, they are different punctuation marks.

You may have never noticed or corrected it before, but that is no excuse. Word processors have been correcting this typography lapse for over 20 years, time to follow suit! There is no reason this should appear in a user interface, article or publication. Correct your quote marks (also called curly or smart quotes).

In the same way you wouldn’t use a bullet point to end a sentence because it looks similar, don’t make this common typography mistake.

Amendment: The above feet and inch marks are also keyboard/typewriter compromises (but an acceptable alternative). Technically this is an inch notation:″ and a feet notation: ′ (notice the slight angle). Feet and inches are an archaic measurement system anyways – go metric. Either way, use the right quotation marks.

3. Accents

An accent is an additional mark above or below certain letters, such as in café and façade. Learn to recognise common words that require an accent.

Café written as ‘cafe’ in a menu or signage is a common one when you pay attention to it. Using some of these words without accents has become common practice, and hence seemingly acceptable. But I don’t feel this makes it ok, as an example ‘resume’ and ‘résumé’ (or resumé) are different words with different meanings. Love your typography and communication – use the correct words and accents!

Typography: Double Spacing
4. Double Space

A double space after a period (or ‘full stop’ for those Australian/UK friends) is a common practice that needs to stop. You might think that no one else would notice it, but it will affect readability. Just like an ampersand pulling the attention of your eye – the additional negative space left by a double space has the same effect.

If you can’t break the habit of typing with double spaces, make sure you do a quick find and replace to clear them out before publishing your work.

If you like this article, share it with your friends and workmates. Tweet, share and spread the word of good typography!