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A River Runs Through It: Avoiding Awkward White Space in Your Newsletter Back

Rivers are great if you have your fishing pole or kayak handy. But you'll want to avoid rivers in your publications. "Rivers" are lines of white space that can run through a selection of text. They are generally caused by the use of justified text alignment and result when words are spaced out far enough to cause these noticeable gaps. These gaps are magnified when they appear near each other on consecutive lines of text, causing a flow of white space through the text block.

The use of narrow columns, large type sizes, and/or the use of two spaces after a period can increase the number of rivers in your text. Rivers in text are undesirable and can cause enough distraction to your reader as to cause a decrease in comprehension and readability of your text. It is also unprofessional looking.

Rivers of White Space
Below is an example of vertical and diagonal "rivers" in justified text. Just some of the more noticeable rivers are identified in this sample.

The best way to pick out the rivers in your document is to stand back and examine the text shape, not reading the words themselves. Allowing your eyes to blur a bit will cause the words to be less distinguished and will allow you to pick out the rivers more easily.

So how do you dam up these rivers? These tips will help minimize these white spaces in your text:

  • Increase the column width.
  • Decrease the type size.
  • Only use one space after periods. (See why this is important.)
  • Reset the copy using a ragged right text alignment.
  • Manually edit the text by putting in soft line breaks on lines that are set relatively tightly and are followed by more loosely set lines.

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