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How to Spot a Word Processed Book

I offered these thoughts on and Alan C. suggested that I repeat them here:

There are certain telltale signs that reviewers among others look for to spot a book that has not been typeset but merely word processed.

1. No hyphenation.
2. Gap toothed lines (the result of 1. above.)
3. hyphens where dashes are needed.
4. Ellipses with varying spacing.

There are other signs that show that an amateur has laid out the book:

5. Underlining where italics are called for (indeed any underlining.)
6. Excessive use of bolding (particularly in fiction.)
7. Frequent type changes in the body of the text.
8. Excessive use of italics on long passages.
9. No page decorations, or at the other extreme, too many decorations.
10. Obvious attempts to ``stretch'' the length of the book such as larger than normal baseline skip, large typeface, huge
margins etc.
11, No index or a poorly done index (non-fiction.)

Five through eleven are not the fault of word processors as such, but the failure to study and emulate (in a general sense at least) well set-up books by large traditional publishers.

On the other hand, there are some signs that indicate not only a typeset book, but a well designed book as well:

A. Hanging punctuation (AKA optical margin.)
B. Uniform grayness across paragraphs and pages.
C. Some degree of innovation in the layout, such as running footers instead of headers, dropped caps, sidebars in non-fiction, thumbnail indexes (bleed tabs) on the text pages etc.

It should be noted that fiction is easier to lay out than non-fiction. A word-processed novel can have a decent (i.e. not distracting) appearance. But I can still spot them.

I typeset books for money. But the tools I use are all available for free on the internet. And any hardback best seller is a good model to look at for fiction. For non-fiction I look at books by Sams, O'Reilly etc. for models. The "for Dummies", "for Idiots" etc. series are a bit garish for my taste.

I also review books. A poorly laid out book automatically gets downgraded when I write the review. Unfortunately I see too many of them.

John Culleton
Able Indexers and Typesetters

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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