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Desktop Publishing Terminology

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Justification is the alignment of the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page. Typically justification refers to the alignment of text to both the left and right margins. Forced justification causes all lines of text, regardless of length, to stretch across from margin to margin.

Although most lines of text are spread out, compressed, or hyphenated in a way that causes the lines to stretch completely from left to right margins, the last (often shorter) final line of text in a fully-justified paragraph is left as-is and not forced to stretch across the column. That's not the case with forced justification which forces that last line to also end at the right margin. It is probably the least used and least desirable text alignment option.

Forced justification can produce a perfectly square or rectangular block of text, which some find attractive. However, if the last line of the text is less than 3/4 of the column width the extra spacing that gets inserted between words or letters may be markedly noticeable and unattractive. If you or a client insist on those perfect line endings you may need to do some copyediting or make adjustments to the overall layout to avoid short lines of text that look especially bad with forced justification.

The use of forced justification should probably be reserved for lesser amounts of text, such as a poster, a greeting card or wedding invitation, or maybe an ad where there are only a few lines that can be carefully edited and typeset so that all lines spread out evenly between margins.

Setting Fully-Justified Text

One of the rules of desktop publishing, Use Ragged Right or Full Justification Appropriately offers tips on when and how to use full justification when aligning text. Without or without forced justification, the issues described here apply to any fully-justified text alignment.

In brief, fully-justified text is:

  • More formal in appearance.
  • Allows for more characters per line of type.
  • Can create unsightly rivers of white space in the text if not carefully spaced or hyphenated.
  • Is typically found in books and newsletters.
  • Gives a neat appearance with the even left and right margins.

You can also do justified text alignment on the Web, although the results may be more difficult to control than in print.

  • How to Set Justified Text with CSS from About.com Web Design/HTML. Heed Guide Jennifer Krynin's recommendation:
    "...only use justification after you've compared it to left-aligned text. You should justify text because you've chosen to justify the text, and because you have good reasons to. Don't justify text simply because you can."

  • An Argument Against Text Align Justify on the Web from Aztek shows examples of how bad those rivers of text can be in fully justified text. Unlike typeset text in print, it is much harder to control the word/letterspacing across browsers.
Also Known As: force justified | forced text alignment
Terms Related to Forced Justification

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