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Type Alignment

Type Alignment

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In this lesson, you will be able to define and recognize type alignments and best practices for their use.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This lesson will define and recognize type alignment and the best practices for their use by examining:

  1. Margins
  2. Alignment
  3. Eye Flow
  4. Formal vs. Informal

1. MARGINS

Margins is what determines the space, or amount of border around a "sheet". It sets the space parameters, indicating where written text can appears. In other words, it's white space which frames the elements in a page layout.

Term to Know

    • Margins
    • White space which frames the elements in a page layout.

Common sizes of margins are as follows:

  • ½ inch
  • ¾ inch
  • 1 inch

The image shown is a common 8 1/2 by 11 sheet, with a half inch margin, which is quite common. You can see how the margin creates kind of border around the area in which text will be written.


2. ALIGNMENT

Lines of text type can align on a margin, on either the left or right side, or the middle, or free form. Type alignment is typically considered a paragraph attribute. Depending on the type of alignment, the paragraph will take different forms and shapes.

So text type can be aligned with left alignment:

Right alignment with text backed up against the right margin:

Centered alignment-- straight down the middle:

Justified, which appears more square:

Free form alignment varies in flow:



3. EYE FLOW

Left aligned and justified alignments are easier and less tiring to read, which is why they are most common. The natural eye flow for people in the Western world, is left to right.

Term to Know

    • Eye Flow
    • The path of a viewer's eye.

Take a look at the images of eye flow below. The red highlight represents your eye flow. The blue dot is the starting point, and the green is the ending point. Just look at it as a whole “unit” so you can see the paragraph shape that starts to develop as your eye scans the page.

So left aligned, as seen here, and justified have the most uniform shape. It's tidier and almost completely creates this kind of square rectangular form, creating a smoother eye flow.

Left aligned:

Justified:

The centered and right alignments, as you see here, creates a type of corkscrew motion. It's kind of an odd shape, knowing that it’s common to read from left to right in the Western part of the world. Typically, these alignments are used in moderation for this reason. It's just not as easy on your eyes.

Centered:

Right aligned:

Terms to Know

    • Free Form
    • Lines of type which do not appear to follow a strict justified or right, left or centered alignment.
    • Left Alignment
    • Lines of type which are aligned to a left margin and ragged on the right.
    • Right Alignment
    • Lines of type which align to right margin and are ragged on the left.
    • Centered Alignment
    • Lines of type which are aligned along a central axis.
    • Justified Alignment
    • Lines of type which are spaced to align along both a left and a right margin, creating a block.

4. FORMAL VS. INFORMAL

It’s worth noting that alignments with ragged edges, specifically noticeable with centered and right alignments, are not very tidy. If fact, the edges seem a bit messy. For this reason, these types of alignments are considered informal.

Justified, the alignment that creates eye flow from left to right, creating a paragraph shape of almost a perfect rectangle, is considered formal.

Example You might have submitted a few papers in school that had to be set with a justified alignment at some point, whether it was for a project in high school or college. The overall presentation is a lot more organized and structured. And it’s easier to read, which may explain why professors prefer it.


Summary

While margins set the “border” of a paper to make sure text doesn’t run off a paper and gives an organized feel to a paper, alignment plays an even bigger role. A great way to determine if a written piece is organized is to evaluate eye flow and make sure it’s easy to read. Left aligned and justified are considered the easiest to read and a bit more formal, while centered alignment and free form are considered more informal and less organized.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Mario Hernandez.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Margins

    White space which frames the elements in a page layout.

  • Eye Flow

    The path of a viewer's eye.

  • Free Form

    Lines of type which do not appear to follow a strict justified or right, left or centered alignment.

  • Left Alignment

    Lines of type which are aligned to a left margin and ragged on the right.

  • Right Alignment

    Lines of type which align to right margin and are ragged on the left.

  • Centered Alignment 

    Lines of type which are aligned along a central axis.

  • Justified Alignment

    Lines of type which are spaced to align along both a left and a right margin, creating a block.