Friday, February 28, 2014

"Got" has got to to be used less often

"Got" is a short word. It doesn't take up much space or require much typing, but it usually adds NOTHING when combined with "have," "has" or "ve." (Sometimes the "have," "has" or "ve" is merely implied, not said.)

Sometimes, "got" is perfect English, but it seems to be imperfect more often.

The sloppy "got" is pervasive. It has invaded
music, television, movies, advertising, government, food, clothing -- even religion. "Got" often makes the speaker or writer seem like a semi-literate hillbilly, ghetto-dweller or recent immigrant.

Think carefully before you use "got."

Does it add anything important to the following?

I've got to go.
You've got a friend in Pennsylvania.
I've got your six.
America has got your six
I've got you, babe.
You've got me.
You got me.
I got it. 
He got game.
America's got talent.
She's got what it takes.

As sloppy English becomes more widespread, it seems normal and acceptable. That's a shame.

From "In the military, 'Got your six' means 'I’ve got your back.' The saying originated with World War I fighter pilots referencing a pilot’s rear as the six o’clock position. It is now a ubiquitous term in the military that highlights the loyalty and cooperation found in military culture. Inspired by this sentiment, the Got Your 6 campaign creates opportunities for veterans and civilians to join together to reinvigorate our communities. The Got Your 6 campaign embodies the values of duty, selfless service, and mutual respect upheld by those who have served in our military."

That's wonderful, but it's sloppy English, and it's unnecessarily sloppy.

(below) Sadly, even a book for prospective teachers got it wrong.

(below) But some farmers got it right. HURRAY!

Here's a good explanation of "got" v. "have" from Grammar Diva Arlene Miller
Here's a defense of "got" from Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On book pages, optical delusions can be marvlous manipulations

The optical center is a concept that demonstrates that it can be better if you use what looks right rather than what measures right. Because the true vertical center often looks too low, if you want something to appear equidistant from the bottom and top, position it a little bit above the true center. (The dot on the right is a little bit too high.)

[above] Sometimes what you see (or think others will see) is more important than what you measure. The upper line of text shows normal letterspacing. The lower line shows that some adjacent vertical letters benefit from increased spacing, and that adjacent round letters, which diverge from their closest points, look better with less spacing.

[above] The upper line has normal letterspacing. The lower line looks better because letterspacing was decreased ("kerned") to compensate for the diverging letterforms.

[above] Parentheses and brackets may be too low to look right in large sizes. Change the vertical alignment (within Font settings in Word). There is probably no need to do this in text sizes.

[above] You may have to add additional space to keep a letter, number or symbol from crashing into a parentheses or bracket. Height and spacing adjustments will vary with character, typeface, case and tilt (roman v. italic or oblique).

[above] Hyphens, em dashes and en dashes may have to be raised a bit in large type.

[above] The height and relative size of the “@” symbol varies greatly among typefaces. In large type sizes, experiment with lowering and/or enlarging the symbol so it aligns better with adjacent text.

Today's material is updated from my upcoming e-book, Typography for Independent Publishers

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sometimes type needs to YELL at readers. Sometimes rules need to be broken.

Standard, ordinary, simple, basic, upright type is considered to be “roman”—with a lowercase “r.” It’s not the same Roman as in Times New Roman. You can use Times New Roman roman or Times New Roman italic.

Italic type can be considered to be the opposite of roman type and it leans to the right. It leans like the Leaning Tower of Pisaand Pisa is in Italy, where italic type originated during the Renaissance. 

Itals” have several purposes in typography. They can provide emphasis and can also highlight:
  •       uncommon foreign words
  •       technical terms
  •       book, magazine, newspaper, CD and movie titles
  •       TV series titles
  •     pieces of art, like The Last Supper
  •       important vehicles, like the Mayflower and Enterprise

Grammar Diva Arlene Miller provides a good rule about using italics or quotation marks: "In general, big things go in italics, and parts of things go in quotation marks."

Names of books (but not “Torah,” “Bible” or “Koran”) are often put in italics. There is much disagreement about what else gets the italic treatment. See Grammar Girl.

It’s common to use italics to introduce an obscure technical term like virgule, and then switch to roman letters later on in a book or article. If I am introducing a technical term that uses ordinary words, like “breaker head,” I generally use quote marks the first time. Sadly, I am not consistent about this.

For many years, before personal computers were common, text was underlined with typewriters that could not produce italic letters for emphasis. Graphics experts frown on the use of underlines in books and recommend italics instead if you need to call attention to a word.

However, sometimes an italic word looks too weak, or doesn't look right when it’s next to a roman word. Compare these two versions of text:

In the first example, “Real” looks stronger because it’s upright and there are no strange gaps between it and the adjacent roman words because of slanted letters. I think the underlined text is fine. Some traditional typographers probably hate it and will brand me as a heretic.

[below] I'm not the only heretic. Here are pieces of two book covers with underlined text. I published one of them

If you mix italic and roman type, be careful with slanted letters W, Y, K, and sometimes M. Look at “k W” below.

[below] Be careful if you have roman and italic letters on the same line. The italics may appear shorter because they ‘lean over.’ You can experiment with slightly enlarging the itals, changing the typeface or changing cases.

[below] Sometimes I use an underline to call attention to an actual (“physical”) word rather than to emphasize a concept.

With modern software and the huge variety of fonts, there is generally no need to use underlines for emphasis. When you underline a word, the line will cross through the descenders of lowercase letters g, j, p, q, and y, making an ugly word. I would hate to underline “regal” or “royal.” You can sometimes avoid the ugly problem by substituting a word that has no descenders (not always an option and you can’t alter a web address).

[below] The New York Daily News is a tabloid newspaper with a long tradition of YELLING at its readers. The paper uses lots of underlines, but cuts the lines apart to accommodate descenders and punctuation. I've never seen this technique on a book cover, but if you feel the need to create a book that yells, try it (but be prepared to be yelled at).

- - - - - 

This posting is adapted from my upcoming Typography for Independent Publishers.