Typography on the Web: And Why it Sucks Like A Dyson

It’s no huge secret that Adobe InDesign has far more typographic control than any web browser does. Microsoft Word is better, too—and even Linux’s LibreOffice Writer has controls for hyphenation and widow/orphan management.

The web has no such controls.

There is, at best, a clunky letter-spacing HTML workaround for kerning that can be applied in-line to individual letter pairs if necessary, but it’s hardly ideal. I’ve used it a couple of times before, and it really is a pain to do—not to mention that in-line CSS styling is generally considered bad practice.

Adjusting each letter pair this way can take you five minutes—in InDesign it might take one, if you’re extremely picky and precise in the way that I often find myself being. But even just locating the letter pairs that need adjustment in HTML can be an additional time-sink. It’s frustrating, it’s inefficient, and it’s one of the few things about HTML that I’m so very irritated by.

The lack of automatic hyphenation is another thing. Giant, unsightly gaps in the text I read online pop out every now and again, and it drives me up the metaphorical wall.

I frequently end up re-wording my own online text content so that it will fit more nicely into the space I’m provided, but I can’t fix the problems seen on another person’s screen. Where do their line breaks sit? I have no idea. Is this massive word going to wrap onto the next line and leave a horrendous gap in the rag? I can’t be sure, but I can be sure that automatic hyphenation settings would mostly fix that sort of thing.

And finally, on the topic of widow/orphan control… That one hanging two-letter word (usually “it”). It’s so incredibly aggravating. It makes me want to scream. It literally does not fit by the breadth of one measly pixel. Kerning would fix it. Hyphenating a line above would fix it. But no—the word sits there, alone, screaming taunts at me.

“I won’t go where you want me! Nyeh!”

And so I’m forced to select a different, shorter word somewhere to move the little scoundrel up to the end of the previous line.

I’m firmly of the opinion that CSS should make the attempt to include things like automatic hyphenation settings and kerning (even manual tracking/kerning for customizable spaces like blogs). But that’s only one person’s opinion, after all. So tell me—what do you think?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s