Magazine article Communication World

Ride Herd on Quality: Don't Let Desktop Publishing Lower Your Standards

Magazine article Communication World

Ride Herd on Quality: Don't Let Desktop Publishing Lower Your Standards

Article excerpt

RIDE HERD on quality:


Anyone who has become dependent on desktop publishing has probably wondered how they ever got along before without it. With the arrival of desktop publishing, a whole new world of design and production opened up: fast turnaround time; reports and newsletters made readable; typeface, layout and design flexibility; a range of choices!

With so many choices, there are also more decisions. Improved technology means enhanced capabilities and higher expectations. Desktop publishing offers shortcuts, making the production process more painless. The key is not to let shortcuts affect the final product's quality.

As desktop publishing becomes more popular, a wide range of professionals and nonprofessionals are using its superior technology, producing materials which at first glance appear to be slick and professional. Upon closer inspection, however, frequently there are discrepancies in quality. Knowing desktop publishing technology is just the beginning. No computer can replace your own design sense or writing ability.

The following is a list of common problem areas for desktop publishers, all of which can detract from the final product's message and purpose.

Changing Formats and Typefaces

-- In the years before desktop publishing, selection of graphic format and typeface was left to professional designers and typesetters, trained specifically for the task. Writers who knew anything about design and type were usually veteran advertising agency copywriters or newspaper editors. And even at that, there was not as much flexibility as there is today.

Today a church bulletin editor has access to more typefaces and design options than many professionals had 10 years ago, and sometimes those bulletins use all of them on the same page. Although the rules vary for the type of document you are producing, it is usually best to keep your selection of type style to two or three complementary faces per document and establish a format that is consistent throughout each document. Establish standards for point sizes for body text and a limited range of point sizes for headlines. Rather than opt for a cookie-cutter approach to design, the key is to create basic design and type parameters and use them effectively and consistently.

Inconsistencies in White Space and Leading

-- Watch the spacing between paragraphs and words. One sure sign that an amateur was at the keyboard is to note inconsistent spacing between words and paragraphs. Desktop system users have found that it is sometimes more convenient to add white space at random than to demand more copy from their writers or themselves. Also, they have found that to avoid the pain of additional editing, it may be easier to tighten the gaps between words and paragraphs, squeezing too much copy into a small space. The end result is a hard-to-read document with no clear direction.

Spell Checking without Proofing

-- Spell-checkers come with a range of capabilities. One newsletter I produce follows a production schedule where all materials pass through two spell-checking systems. Still, the most potentially embarrassing mistakes have a way of slipping through.

If you don't devote enough attention to proofing, how do you explain to your readers that what you really meant to write was "six million" instead of "sex million"? …

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