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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Static Images: Print

The page example shown here demonstrates some of the elements found in many static images, especially those that have a lot of text.

Margin When a printed text is designed, choices are made as to how the page is laid out to meet its particular purpose. The layout of this example deliberately leaves a wide margin between the edge of the text and the edge of the page so that the reader's view of the information to be read is uncluttered and clear. The wide margin also allows other related information that is visual in nature to be included alongside the most relevant and appropriate text to help illustrate what the words are describing. The width of the margin has been set on the computer, during design, by altering the format.
Column Other features of text layout or format include the number of columns and their width. This example has a two-column layout or format. Newspapers commonly use narrower columns: a reader can scan quickly using only vertical eye move-ments - up and down - rather than having to travel across the page. Different types of material will be laid out in a newspaper using different column widths, the wider measures tending to be used for more reflective editorial or feature writing and the standard one-column layout for news and classified advertisements.
Gutter The space between columns is called a gutter. The width of the gutter affects the readability of the text, the visual impact being cluttered if the gutter is too narrow.

The measure of any piece of text is the width each line is set to. The measure of the lines in this example is 118 mm.

The width of the gap between the lines of print is an important factor in the readability of the print. This is called line spacing or leading.

Spacing The spacing between words is another visual element. Usually, one space is left after each word (single spacing), but customarily, double spacing is used after a full stop to help the reader identify new sentences easily.

Within the selected measure, or width of line, the text can be laid out in a number of different ways.
 New paragraphs are usually indicated in books by double spacing after the previous paragraph. However, to save space, newspapers usually indicate new paragraphs by indenting the first word. The indents are set by using tabs,

  • and they can be designed to indent the text
  • at one or more points
  • according to the purpose
  • of the text's writer and designer.
  The words you are reading now, show another important visual dimension - the choice of lettering, also known as the typeface or typography.
Point Size

Words can be displayed in a variety of sizes and styles. Size, which is described as point, can vary from very small, at 9 point, to very large, at 72 point. These words on this page are set in 10 point. The point size is selected to suit the type of text and the audience.

These words are also in a particular style or font. The designer has chosen Palatino but could have used another font, such as Avant Garde, Bookman, Chicago, Courier, Geneva, Helvetica, Monaco, New Century Schoolbook, or New York Times. Each font includes both upper-case (or capital) and lower-case letters and numbers. The selection of font is a significant element of non-verbal language because each font has characteristics that make it appropriate to different purposes. Some fonts are easier to read than others. Some provide clear, lively heading styles but become awkward in a larger block of text. Some have full, rounded shapes that appeal to certain readers, whereas others are more elliptical and may convey the right image for particular texts and purposes. A wide range of different styles is available, including fonts that look like handwriting and may be selected to convey an image of personal correspondence.

Some fonts have serifs, which are tiny strokes at the tips of each letter. Others, such as Optima, are sans serif (sans meaning "without" in French). The purpose determines the choice of a font with or without serifs. For instance, young children are often assisted in reading by the clear delineation of lines and word endings that serifs provide.


Spacing between letters is another visual element of text: font design varies, and a designer may adjust spacing between letters at certain points, again improving legibility. This process is called kerning.

Distinctive fonts, sometimes augmented by hand-lettering, are often used in newspaper, magazine, or television advertising to catch the eye of viewers or readers and impress and persuade them. The words in an advertisement might also be in the style of italics, bold, outline, or shadow.

The terms used about print, and the term press itself, derive from the original "moveable type". With this system, each letter was moulded in lead and lifted from its case by the typesetter, who set it in sequence, ready for inking and for the paper to be pressed against it.

Layout, then, is how the visual language or images, including any words, are set out on the page or computer screen - it is the overall form of the image once all its separate parts have been combined. Whether laying out the front page of a newspaper or designing a poster advertising the school production, we need to consider the layout of the visual images and their relationship with the words carefully so that the communication is effective.

Summary of Terms


layout double spacing font
margin indenting upper case
format tabs lower case
columns lettering serifs
gutter  typeface sans serif
measure typography italics
line spacing size bold
leading point outline
single spacing style shadow

Exploring language content page

Published on: 07 May 2009