Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

My sweetie and I will be travelling to the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival later in October. We've already got tickets for six events and Robert Bringhurst will be speaking/reading at two of them: The Look of the Book (with Seth and Audrey Niffenegger) and the Poetry Bash (with Carol Ann Duffy, Xi Chuan, Gregory Scofield and others).

The Elements of Typographic Style is pretty much the bible for its field. I read it some time ago (it was first published in 1992) and decided to revisit it recently. Bringhurst writes with clarity, passion and humour. He loves the printed word and celebrates when it is presented with grace and beauty. So do I. The printing museums in Antwerp and Lyon have both enthralled me.

Bringhurst's aim for typographers is to "induce a state of energetic repose which is the ideal condition for reading." He warns of "typographical slums," "hyphens like refugees" and texts like "shrink-wrapped meat." It isn't all about the fonts, either: "Perhaps fifty per cent of the character and integrity of a printed page lies in its letterforms. Much of the other fifty per cent resides in its margins." Yay for white space!

I'll close with a quote about one of my pet peeves when I'm editing: double spaces after a period. "In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff extra space between sentences. Generations of twentieth-century typists were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after every period. Your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit." To my dear blog readers, may you take note.

1 comment:

kim doyle thorsen said...

oh god. the double space. i berate all editing clients on this. pains me.