InDesign and hanging text

Over our Christmas holidays, we went to the very lovely Durham and the even lovelier Durham Cathedral. One of the surprising highlights of the cathedral, as well as the grave of the Venerable Bede himself, is the miniature version of the cathedral made from Lego that you can find in the gift shop at the back.

Unfortunately, there was something about the model’s explanatory text that caught my eye:

It’s that dangling “St” on the second line. Grrr.

Now, I don’t know if this was laid out in InDesign, but the scent of the Adobe Paragraph Composer does seem to linger over it. Now, one of my bugbears with that program is that it doesn’t have great ‘keep with’ controls. Yes, you can at least keep lines together and avoid widows and orphans, but you’d think Adobe’s expertise with type would mean it could offer more than Microsoft does with Word – look how many different kinds of white space there are in InDesign, for example:

InDesign’s “Insert White Space” function offers 12 different kinds of space

I do love both “Balanced Ragged Lines” and the Adobe Paragraph Composer, although given the effect soft returns has on them, I usually use “No Break” to avoid confusing them. “No Break” also avoids the similar problems caused by copying and pasting non-breaking spaces into pull quotes, headlines and other differently formatted text, within both InDesign and content management systems. Use “No Break” and when you “Paste Without Formatting”, the “No Break” is removed, and the text can wrap as appropriate for the new measure; use a non-breaking space or a soft return and nine times out of ten, you’ll then have to remove it manually in the destination.

InDesign’s useful ‘No Break’ function is only available through the Character palette, so I add a keyboard shortcut for it to make it easier to access

Avoiding runts

But these functions don’t prevent short words such as “St” and “I” from hanging at the end of lines or paragraphs from having “runts”. The latter can be fixed using GREP functions in stylesheets but that’s not exactly a simple fix nor one that the average freelance is empowered to use.

So it would be great if Adobe paid a little more attention to the “meat and two veg” aspects of text in InDesign, rather than just the flashier aspects of design-intensive text in short publications, brochures and adverts. It would save subs a huge amount of time if there were a simple way to automatically avoid that kind of unsightly text-handling, such as including it in Paragraph Composer by default or making it an option in paragraph formatting.

Until then, I’ll just have to keep an eye out for hanging text and runts, and keep “No Break” to hand.

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