A FEW YEARS AGO, I had the pleasure of redesigning the High Point Enterprise in High Point, NC. During our discussions leading up to the redesign, we talked about jumps. • Should we jump? • If we jumped, how many stories would we jump? • Who decided which stories to jump? • What page would they jump to? After much give-and-take, we decided we’d follow the USA Today method: only one jump—if any—off Page 1 and section fronts. It’s an approach I still support because: • It means writers must learn to write tighter. • It brings greater focus to the decision-making process. But, most of all, it makes life easier for the reader, who only has to follow one story inside. It’s worth considering.
I still say: This… …and not this
A MONTH AGO, I posted some thoughts about jumps, making a point about not jumping at the end of a paragraph. My thinking is that jumping at the end of a paragraph invites readers to stop reading, never going to the jumped part of the story.
I’ve reposted that hint following this one.
Randy Keck, publisher at The Community News in Aledo, TX, disagrees. Says he: “I really enjoy your blog and hints. I often struggle with design issues and your wisdom and insights are valued. I do want to present another viewpoint on jumps. Several years ago I attended one of your seminars and, as a result, eliminated jumps. Some years later an editor convinced me they were sometimes necessary. When we use them, I have always insisted that they come at the end of a paragraph. If we are designing for readers, I can tell you as a reader that there is nothing more irritating than having to locate the jump mid-word. I think if the content is not compelling enough to keep the reader, its inclusion might need to be reconsidered.” I agree. Many design elements, such as headlines, pullouts and infoboxes, serve as points of entry. But jumps, unfortunately, are a point of exit. They always take readers off the page to another page—if the reader will go. If the story is well-written, we increase the odds that readers will go to the jump. If not, good luck! And I believe that’s Randy’s point, too. But I still think that placing the jump at the end of a paragraph increases the odds that readers will decide the story just isn’t that compelling after all. And here are a couple of other points to keep in mind: 1. Many readers who see that a story jumps will only read down to the paragraph above the one that jumps. 2. Many readers dislike jumps so much that they will not even begin to read the story. More on that in next week’s Henninger Helpful Hint.
WE ALL KNOW the properties and advantages of a headline that reads out of a main headline.
Some of us call it a “drop head,” some call it a “deck head,” still others call it a “subhead.” Whatever we call that read-out headline, we most often use it to add more detail or an extra thought above a story.
But there’s also what I call the “read-in” headline, like the one you see above.
I’ll use a read-in headline on an occasional feature package—to help give that package a different look. One of the advantages of the read-in headline is that it allows for the use of a label headline that’s…well, not really a label headline. And it also allows you to use a lot of words in a headline that’s…well, not really a wordy headline.
It’s an approach that’s just different enough to stand out. It works for me. Perhaps you can make it work for you.
Legible… …but not readable
LIKE MANY, I used to not really understand the difference between the terms “legibility” and “readability.” But when I finally got it, well…it’s actually quite simple. Legibility speaks to the design of the typeface itself. A legible typeface is open, clear, simply designed, with good x height. Much like the Helvetica in the example at left above. Readability goes to how we treat the type—even one as legible as Helvetica. We can take a highly legible typeface and make it near unreadable.
• Track it too tightly, so the letters begin to merge into each other.
• Use a horizontal scale that’s far too tight.
• Reverse the type, leaving no space on any sides within the text box.
There you have it: a highly legible typeface…made highly unreadable. Most typefaces you’ll use in a newspaper are designed to be very legible. It’s what we do with those typefaces that makes them more—or, in this case, much less—readable.
WHENEVER SOMEONE INSISTS that his text type is a good choice…and that it’s large enough and legible enough, I give it my simple acid test. I put it up against Nimrod. I take some dummy type in Nimrod and set the other font in the same size, same line length and same spacing. In the example above, Times at the same size, length and spacing doesn’t even come close to the Nimrod in readability. Some fonts come closer. Georgia is one. Lucida Bright is another. But many, many others fail to measure up. It’s a simple test…and it works for me. All the time.