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Formatting text: Dos and (mostly) don’ts


▲ Introduction — what this guide covers

These guidelines deal with formatting text — narrative, notes, and similar copy — that is to be submitted to MetaGlyfix to be typeset or laid out for print, or posted to the web. Unless otherwise specified, it is assumed that submitted text are digital files. In most cases, physical print (hard copy) and electronic print (PDF) are equivalent in their requirements for preparation and submission.

[Illustrations — maps, tables, photos, etc. — are covered in the guidelines for Submission, Photographs, Line Art, and Maps and Technical Illustrations.]

▲ Print vs. Web

The aesthetics and best uses of print and web are different. Because physical print and PDF, once published, are neither readily changed by the author nor alterable by the reader, professional design and typography entails strict planning and precise execution.

On the other hand, material published on a website is easy to amend by the author or publisher, while at the same time its appearance is fluid and adaptable by the reader. Websites work best, load faster, and are compatible with more browsers when the designer does not try to control too many aspects of its visual appearance. MetaGlyfix aesthetic eschews decoration and distracting effects for clear presentation of and ready navigation to the material itself. It should be fluid and accessible to the various needs of the intended audience. MetaGlyfix strives to present material on the web as the author or client wishes, but also in the manner most usable to the reader.

▲ Formatting of Text Intended for Print

Rule #1: DON’T

Do as little as possible. Except for italics, almost all formatting and styles in an author’s ms must be undone by the typographer.

▲ Guidelines for print

Plain and simple. Keep the formatting as plain as possible and the use of word-processing styles, style-sheets, and special effects minimal. Think “typewriter,” not word processor.

Fonts. Use the same font throughout unless symbols or non-western characters require a special font. Unicode fonts are always preferred and sometimes required (see details with "Submitting Manuscripts").

Italics. Indicate italicized words either as italics or underline — merely be consistent.

Underline. By convention, underline is interpreted during typesetting as italics. If the author or editor uses actual italics rather than underline to indicate italicized words, then underline may be used to insert extra-textual instructions for the typographer or to clarify structural elements such as heading levels.

Boldface. Boldface is seldom found in the text of typeset books. Any words submitted as boldface will be altered to conform to the design specifications of the volume. However, the author or editor is free to use boldface to insert extra-textual instructions for the typographer or to clarify structural elements such as heading levels.

Small caps. The typographer will set certain words and phrases as small caps according to the work’s design and style specifications. The editor (and, rarely, an author) may wish to designate small caps, as well, with a marginal, bracketed, or other extra-textual note. The manuscript text itself should not contain small caps.

[Why? Small caps by a word processor will not survive conversion to the typesetting software and fonts.]

Breaks in text. Breaks for sections within a chapter, with or without headings, should be indicated by an explicit extra-textual note on a separate line/paragraph. Do not insert a word processor’s “new page” or “new section” break. The author or editor may insert a few extra paragraph breaks if desired as long as the explicit instruction is not omitted.

[Why? A new page or new section command in a word processor inserts a code that will be meaningless in typesetting.]

Margins and indents. A manuscript intended for the copyeditor may contain indented or blockquote passages as convention requires. Otherwise, text margins should be uniform. Note, however, that in a final edited manuscript intended for the typographer, both the beginning and end of every extract (quotation) should additionally be tagged (explicitly marked). This is usually done by the copyeditor.

Justification and alignment. All text, including headings, should be left-aligned with ragged (i.e., unjustified) right margin.

[Why? Headings or any structural element indicated by horizontal centering will be obscured in the typesetting workflow. Structure and errors are more readily visible with ragged right margins.]

Hyphenation. Do not break or hyphenate words at the ends of lines. Turn off automatic hyphenation in the word-processing application.

Hyperlinks and “live” web and email addresses. Eliminate all “live” links, such as web or email addresses. Be diligent about removing hyperlinks from bibliographies and reference lists, where they are likely to have been carried over from a source document.

[Why? Both the underlying code and the visible text of a hyper­link — in other words, the entire address — may translate as blank during typesetting.]

Stylesheets. Eliminate all unused stylesheets. If possible, avoid stylesheets altogether.

[Why? Stylesheets in a word processor are welcome features for typing and formatting a paper efficiently and consistently. However, when stylesheets are used in a paper submitted for typesetting, the typesetter will eliminate them. In some cases this could mean loss of the author’s or editor’s data and/or structure. For example, text styled with a word processor’s bulleted or numbered list styles will appear as unstructured paragraphs, without initial bullet or number. Unless the copyeditor has tagged the passage extra-textually as a list, list items will become plain paragraphs].

Think typewriter. Turn off special word processor features and simplify the digital manuscript as much as possible. See these cautions for more details.

▲ Extratextual instructions

In general, text structure is best indicated by the simplest means possible. Thus, rule number two:

Rule #2: Instructions and examples

Convey structure and (to an extent) desired appearance of copy by consistent use of tags or notes within the digital text, by separate instructions, or by illustrative examples.

The author is encouraged to use a consistent system for indicating and — preferably — tagging heading levels, structural elements, breaks, location of illustrations, etc., in the digital manuscript. See Submitting Manuscripts and Illustrations for examples and details.

For emphasis, clarification, adherence to orthographic convention in certain disciplines, or other reasons, an author may also want to indicate certain effects on the printed copy submitted or by pointing to an example. Be sure that all relevant parties — author, editor, designer, and typographer — have consulted and understand what is intended.

▲ Formatting of Text Intended for the Web

The reasons and methods for putting text on the Web are too numerous and evolving for practical guidelines to cover all situations. Therefore, this section restricts itself to two general situations that scholars often encounter.

▲ a. Submitting new material

Examples: professional or personal website, curriculum vitae, special event website, project website

Method: Generally text for a website will be reduced to plain text, and structure and formatting will be added by MetaGlyfix using HTML and CSS codes. Two options for submitting text:
  1. Plain TEXT. The client may leave it to MetaGlyfix to determine structure and appropriate formatting, or may indicate it extra-textually (external notes, consultation, etc.)
  2. Lightly formatted RTF file or word-processing document. MetaGlyfix will use visible formatting and structures as guidelines. In such cases — and unlike documents intended for print publication — consistent use of such formatting as italics, bold, varying font sizes, heading hierarchies is acceptable.

▲ b. Submitting already existing or published material

Option 1. To ensure that the layout, pagination, formatting, and graphics are preserved exactly as presented in the client’s copy, both for web viewing and when downloaded or printed, the client may submit a PDF file or request that MetaGlyfix create the PDF. See Papers for Web Sites for details.

Option 2. A client may wish to publish an already existing document (such as a scholarly paper or syllabus) or a published article as a conventional web page on a website. In such a case, MetaGlyfix essentially deconstructs the formatting and structuring coded by the word processor, replaces it with appropriate HTML and CSS web coding, and posts it to a website adding links and other live elements.

▲ Guidelines for web

Submission requirements for materials intended for the web are much less strict than those for print. MetaGlyfix can work with almost any incarnation of existing documents and illustrations. However, when possible, some things can make the workflow more efficient and successful:

  1. Electronic files of all materials (preferably not as PDF unless the PDF is to be posted as is)
  2. Graphics and illustrations each in a separate, native-format file
  3. Unicode fonts for text, especially if there are non-western characters or letters and words not common in English
  4. A clear indication of the hierarchy of the material: sections, headings, notes, asides, placement of illustrations, etc.

Last updated 28 June 2021 (Monday) at 16:36:20 UTC