Just When You Thought You Were Done: Typography

When I started working with an editor who also professionally checks typesetting of pages for book printing, I discovered a new set of things I didn't know about.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I keep a running QA list of things to check. Now I have a new section, for typography. Here’s my short list of typesetting things-to-check, and how I fix the errors and inconsistencies.

Note that I write and typeset in WORD, so although these errors are not specific to WORD, my fixes are. There are better tools out there, like InDesign, but for a text-only novel, I feel as if I can get away with doing it in WORD. I'm probably wrong, and ought to stop using WORD.

Fix wrong characters.

Typing with or without various auto-correct tools on can result in wrong characters. Here are some things I look for:

  • Straight quotation marks, single or double. I replace all of them with curly quotation marks.
  • Hyphens that should be em-dashes or en-dashes. This is the right way to use them:
    • Hyphen: for hyphenated words: “dance-like.”
    • En-dash: for indicating a numeric series:  “1 – 99.”
    • Em-dash: for parenthetical phrases: “Write something—like this, for example—and use the proper character.”
  • Double spaces. Find and replace with a single space.
  • Open single quotation marks instead of closed single quotation marks in contractions.

On that last one: Every case of a single quotation mark used to indicate a missing letter should be a close single quotation mark, whether it’s a simple contraction (like “it’s”) or colloquial dialogue (like “Some ’o yous guys ain’t thinkin’ ...”). But WORD assumes that any quotation mark with a character to its right is an open quotation mark, and fixes it to the wrong character.

In my case, I don’t use single quotation marks in dialogue (ever; I use italics if someone is quoting someone else). So I search for initial single quotation marks and change them all to closed.

Fix incorrect hyphenation of words.

I have a tendency to hyphenate things, especially words with “-like” at the end: dance-like, monster-like … things like that.

I check each of these against Merriam Webster. If the Merriam Webster dictionary lists the “like” version without a hyphen, I remove the hyphen. Otherwise I keep it.

I find the errors by checking the entire document using “Advanced Find and Replace” for “[a-z]like” and “-like” and look up each one. You can search using wildcards at Find >> Advanced Find & Replace >> expand the drop-down and check “Use wildcards” >> expand the “Special” menu to see the formats.

Fix short last lines.

A typical style rule is not to have the last line of a paragraph consist of a single word that is shorter than four letters. This is a visual thing; it looks strange to have very short last-lines.

There are three possible ways fix these:

  1. Turn off hyphenation for the paragraph.
  2. Reduce the spacing (character spacing) for the paragraph.
  3. Increase the spacing for the paragraph.

I do whichever looks best, for any given instance. If turning off hyphenation fixes the short-last-line problem and looks okay, I do that. Normally, though, I will reduce the character spacing by up to 0.3 pt. (in Format >> Font >> Advanced >> Spacing).

0.3 pt is often too much, though, and makes the words look crammed together. So sometimes, instead of reducing the spacing, I increase it by 0.1 pt or 0.2pt., to force another word into the last line.

Fix loose lines.

Turning off hyphenation for a paragraph can result in "loose lines," text with big spaces between the words, which are stretched out in order to fully justify the line.  I try to fix the egregious cases by increasing or decreasing the letter spacing.

Fix bad hyphenations.

There are several categories that I look for:

  • Any hyphenation across pages. A word should not be split between two pages.
  • Any hyphenation that puts only a couple of letters on the next line.
  • Any hyphenation that reads awkwardly, or that I just don’t like the look of.
  • Hyphenated proper names.

I fix these by turning off hyphenation for this paragraph. Sometimes I then tweak the character spacing as well. As with short last lines, I try various changes until the paragraph looks okay.

Remove manual line breaks.

A manual line break will cause WORD to stretch out the last line of the paragraph, fully justifying it. I use Advanced Search & Replace to find all of them and replace them with regular line breaks.

Ensure consistent paragraph indentation.

Check for unintentional changes in the indentation of the first line. I set the default tab stops to 0.2”— but whatever you use, just check the full document for any places where it has been changed accidentally to some other setting.

Blank lines at the top of a page.

I use a blank line to separate sections within a chapter, but I don’t want a blank line as the first line on any page.

Fix headers and footers.

This is my least favorite step. My books are full length novels, so I want chapter titles in the page headers on odd pages, and the book title in the header on even pages. I also want page numbers in the footer. 

There are two exceptions:

  • The first page of each chapter has no header, since the chapter name is on the page (so it would look silly also to show it in the header), but I do want a page number in the footer; and
  • Blank pages should be completely blank, with no header or footer.

In WORD, this is one of the most time consuming steps, and probably a good reason to use InDesign instead. WORD is okay with having both a header and a footer, or no header and no footer, on any give page. But it will fight you tooth an nail if you try to have a page with a footer (page number, specifically) but no header (the first page of the chapter).The "different first page" feature applies to both the header and the footer on the page.

So, I have to use a hack to make this work:

  •  Set the document to “Different Odd & Even Pages” (in Header and Footer settings). This is to allow headers on odd/even pages.
  • Set the first page of each chapter to “Different First Page" and un-select “Link to Previous.” This is to remove the header and footer from the first page of the chapter.
  • Manually type a page number in the footer of the first page.

This ought to work, but you still have to fight with it. Each time I start working on this for a new manuscript, I think “Oh, I just wasn’t doing it properly before, but now I get it." And then I find out, no, even though I know how it's supposed to work, I still have to fight with it for hours to get all the pages the way I want them. If someone knows a foolproof way to do this, please tell me.

Check pagination.

Once I finish fighting with the headers and footers and fix any other layout issues, I output the whole book in PDF format and check the pagination:

  • Every chapter starts on an odd page number
  • Page numbering is correct. (No page numbers are skipped)
  • No page numbers on blank pages.
  • No page numbers in the front and end matter (my personal preference).

There are probably several more items that I should add to this list, but this seems to result in pages that look pretty good.