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U&lc Online Issue: 41.1.1

Headline Line Breaks


by Ilene Strizver



For Your Typographic

When setting display type of any kind – a book cover, an advertisement, a poster, a magazine article or an invitation – pay close attention to the line breaks. Why? In today’s digital world, where the designer is also the typesetter, you are responsible for making the text as readable, logical, and attractive as possible, and well-chosen line breaks play a starring role.

Headline Line Breaks
The upper setting has poor line breaks in terms of context as well as balance. A phrase like Rock ‘n’ Roll should not be broken, and the very short third line is awkward in any case. The setting below it not only reads better, but it looks better as well. Set in Monotype Bernard Condensed.

Some headlines and subheads take up just one line, but many others are longer and require line breaks to fit them into the allotted space. If you let the default setting in your program make these breaks for you, often you will get text that doesn’t look or read as well as you’d like. As a designer, it is your job to review all heads and subheads and to make manual line breaks both for sense (or context) as well as for visual balance. What exactly does this mean?

• Breaking for sense means breaking a line where one might logically pause when reading it aloud. This includes keeping adjectives with their nouns.

• Breaking for balance means avoiding both widows - or very short lines - and radically differing, unbalanced line lengths. Don’t hyphenate, and avoid breaking proper names over two lines if possible.

Headline Line Breaks
InDesign feature Balance Ragged Lines can be found off of the Paragraph panel.

The Adobe® InDesign® Balance Ragged Lines feature can go some way toward preventing unequal line lengths in headlines and subheads. Access this feature locally from the Paragraph Panel, or incorporate it in Paragraph Styles under Indents and Spacing. Since this feature does not take context or meaning into consideration, you’ll need to review the text carefully and may need to make additional tweaks.

NOTE: Neither QuarkXpress® nor any of the word processing applications have a feature to help with line breaks.

Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a
typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects
of typographic communication. Read more about typography in her latest
literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional
typography, 2nd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.