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Introduction to the Style Guide: 5

Back to Basics

Macro-typography for the web is the business of displaying text so that the reader can find it on the page and quickly fathom what each section of text is there for. On this website, you'll find advice about good and bad practice.

We'll consider for example why the presentation of poetry and lyrics on video screens rarely matches the standards of print, and provide a guide to basic legibility.

Many style guides are misnamed, since they neglect style fundamentals and instead deal with "better writing". Five hundred years ago, a "style" meant a legal formula and a style guide was a collection of effective forms for deeds and writs. Printers developed similar handbooks where the emphasis was on presentation that worked. In modern times, style guides have become bloated with spelling rules, usage prescriptions and good taste: the one I did for dpa is 50 per cent a writing manual and word-list.

A guide to text layout should be like the old legal style guides, concentrating on format and effectiveness. This guide is not about look and feel or pretty writing, but about making things legible, making layout work. It builds on the sound but brief advice in the typography section of Lynch and Horton's online Yale Style Manual (1st edition 1997, 2nd edition 2002) and takes to heart the idea that books still give us the oldest and best models for how to make text truly legible.

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