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Justified or Ragged Right?: How to Choose Back

We see justified text almost every day—in newspapers, magazines, and books. It is the most common form of text alignment in use today for publications. But would it work well for your newsletter? Studies have been done to try to pinpoint which type of alignment increases readability. There is no conclusive evidence to show which is preferred by readers. In fact, you can find studies that promote justified text as being more readable and others that say that ragged right text increases speed and comprehension.

So it most often comes down to the preference of the newsletter producer. When deciding what type of text alignment to use, you should consider these points first.

Justified Text

Justified text is text that aligns on both the left and right side of a column.

Advantages of Justified Text

Disadvantages of Justified Text

  • More formal.
  • Familiar to readers.
  • Cleaner look.
  • Maximizes word density and allows you to fit more text in less space.
  • Considered by some to increase comprehensibility.
  • Less friendly.
  • May cause excessive use of hyphenation unless care is taken.
  • May cause "rivers" of white space in the text.
  • May take more time to layout properly, by requiring extensive manual editing.

Ragged Right Text

Ragged right text is text that aligns on only the left-hand side of a column, leaving the right side jagged or “ragged.”

Advantage of Ragged Right Text

Disadvantage of Ragged Right Text

  • Casual and open look.
  • Increases white space.
  • More appropriate spacing between letters and words.
  • Can speed up reading rate.
  • Generally considered easier to read.
  • Takes up less of your time to layout properly.
  • Not as familiar to readers of books, newspapers, and magazines.
  • Can't fit as much information into each column.
  • May need extra editing attention to prevent the right edge from becoming too ragged.

The Final Decision

Ultimately, it comes down to a judgment call. A formal, investment banking newsletter would probably benefit from the look of justified text. An apartment community newsletter should probably be set using ragged right alignment. But, as with all design "rules," there aren't any that can't be broken. Go with what looks good to you, and you will probably find that your readers will agree! Ask for input and feedback on your design, specifically relating to your choice of text alignment. The very best judges of your design are the readers themselves!


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