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By: Roger C. Parker...

Mistake 8. Awkward gaps between sentences

Never press the space bar twice following the period at the end of a sentence. This is especially true when working with paragraphs of justified text - i.e. lines of equal length. When word spacing is adjusted to create lines of equal length, each space will expand, often creating a very noticeable gap between sentences. Sometimes, these gaps will be located in adjacent lines, creating distracting rivers of white space running through your text.

Mistake 9. Hard to read headlines

Headlines should form a strong contrast with the text they introduce. Readers should have no trouble locating or reading them

Avoid headlines set exclusively in uppercase type (i.e. upper-case letters). These are harder to read and take up more space than headlines set in the combination of upper and lowercase type

Never set headlines entirely in uppercase, i.e. capital, letters. Headlines set entirely in upper-case characters are harder to read than headlines set in a combination of upper and lower case type. This is because words set entirely in uppercase characters lack the distinctive shapes that words set in lower case characters create

Headlines set entirely in upper case type also occupy up to a third more space than headlines set in both upper and lower case letters.

Mistake 10. Failure to chunk content

Chunking refers to making e-books easier to read by breaking them into manageable, bite-sized pieces. The best way to chunk content is to insert frequent subheads through the text. Subheads convert "skimmers" into readers by "advertising" the text that follows

Before committing to spend time on each page, readers quickly skim each page for clues indicating whether or not it will be worth reading the page

Subheads attract your reader's eyes and "advertise" the paragraphs that follow. Each subhead thus provides an additional entry point into the text. Subheads avoid the visual boredom created by page after page of near-identifiable paragraphs.

Mistake 11. Poor subhead formatting

To succeed, subheads must form a strong visual contrast with the adjacent paragraphs. It's not enough to simply set subheads in the italicized version of the same typeface used for body copy. Subheads should be noticeably larger and/or bolder than adjacent text.

A few more subhead formatting tips: Typeface: one of the safest formulas is to combine sans serif bold subheads with serif body copy. To unify your publication, use the same typeface for both headlines and subheads

Underlining: never underline subheads to "make them more noticeable." Underlining makes them harder to read. This is because underlining interferes with the descenders - or portions of characters like g, p, and y - that extend below the invisible line the subheads rest on

Length: limit subheads to one or two keywords. Avoid full sentences. Subheads work best when limited to a single line. Subheads should also be set off by generous amounts of white space. Avoid "floating" subheads, i.e. subheads equally spaced between the previous paragraph and the next paragraph. Ideally, there should be twice as much space above a subhead than below the subhead and the paragraph it introduces.

Mistake 12. Inappropriate hyphenation

There are different hyphenation rules for headlines, subheads, and body copy. Never hyphenate headlines or subheads, but always hyphenate text paragraphs.

A failure to hyphenate body copy is very noticeable:
Justified text alignment - i.e. lines of equal length with differing word spacing. Failing to hyphenate justified text awkward word spacing problems. There will be huge gaps between words in lines containing a few long words. Word spacing in lines containing several short words is apt to be noticeably cramped. The differing in word spacing will be very obvious in adjacent lines.
Flush-left/ragged-right alignment - i.e. lines of unequal length with consistent word spacing. Here, lines containing a few long words will be very short, while lines containing several short words will be very long. These differing line lengths will be very noticeable.

Be on the lookout for excessive hyphenation. Avoid hyphenating more than two lines in a row. If your text shows excessive hyphenation, the type size you have chosen may be too large for the line length you are working with.

Mistake 13. Distracting headers, footers, and borders

Headers and footers refer to text or graphic accents repeated at the top or bottom of each page.

Often, e-book publishers use the same typeface and type size for both body copy and header and footer information. Page numbers, copyright information, and the publisher's address and copyright information should be smaller and less noticeable than the text on each page

Compounding the problem: often headers and footers contain web site hyperlinks set in blue. This creates another distraction which pulls the reader's eyes away from the primary message. Few e-books help readers keep track of their location in the book and their progress through it. Without section and chapter numbers and titles, it is hard for readers to locate, or re-locate, specific chapters, and specific topics. Often the author or publisher's e-mail address appears in a header or footer as a bright blue, hyperlink - sometimes the only color on each page. The bright blue link attracts attention far out of proportion to its importance. Large, colored logos on each page can also be very distracting, without adding meaningful information.

Borders; e-books pages are often boxed with lines of equal length and thickness at the top, bottom and sides. Boxed pages project a conservative, old-fashioned look. A more contemporary image can be created using rules - or lines - of different thickness at just the tops and bottoms of each page. Roger Parker

Mistake 14. Widows and orphans

Widows and orphans occur when a word, a portion of a word, or part of a line of text is isolated at the bottom of a page (or column) or at the top of the next of the next page or (column).

The worst case scenario occur when a subhead appears by itself at the bottom of a page, isolated from the paragraph it introduces which appears at the top of the next page Although most software programs permit you to automatically "lock" subheads to the text they introduce, this feature is very rarely used.

Conclusion

First impressions count.
When someone downloads an e-book they have just purchased from you, within seconds they will either feel a glow of pleasure, or a feeling of disappointment. Buyers check out the cover and glance at inside pages, then either say "Aw gee, just another hard-to-read, look-alike e-book" or "Wow! This looks really great!"

Whether your e-book receives the attention it deserve and paves the way for future sales, or - worst case scenario - a refund is requested - depends to a great extent on the design of your e-book.

The architect Mis van der Rohe, once commented: "God is in the details." e-Book success, too, lies in the details. Your readers are always in a hurry. The smallest detail can sabotage their interest in your e-book, interrupting reading until "later."

And, as we all know, "later" usually means "never!"

Roger C. Parker
      Author, coach, design educator, consultant

Also see:: Roger's MOST COMMON NEWSLETTER DESIGN MISTAKES
 

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