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Why fonts and layout can make or break copy

typography and copyJust the other day, I saw some copy I’d written, now laid out, formatted and surrounded by all the other elements of the page.

I was horrified.

Copy that was strong and punchy had lost its mojo – cramped into a space that was too small, oddly formatted, and in a font that was difficult to read.

Things used to be so simple.

If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember a time when we had a limited range of printer fonts – all at fixed point sizes. If you were daring, you could add soft fonts, but they were still fixed.

Then along came the font revolution and with just a few clicks, you could turn even the most innocent communication into a ransom note.

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

The best copy in the world can be scuppered by poor formatting.  Yesterday, I abandoned somebody’s blog – not because it wasn’t interesting, but because my eyes hurt. The font was jagged and just didn’t work, so I gave up.

It’s surprising how many sites these days use tiny point sizes.  Of course, you could just change the size of the text using the menus, but it’s a hassle. So you don’t.

Bullets, headings and short paragraphs all make copy more readable. As do fonts specifically designed for the screen – like this one (Verdana).  And white space breaks up text and gives it room to breathe.

Of course I have to be careful not to overstep the mark. Graphic designers and web designers are fiercely territorial – though not nearly as prickly as copywriters.

So how did I solve my copy layout challenge last week?

Very, very diplomatically.

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