Writing is just as much visual as it is contextual

TypographyI stumbled onto a link that focuses on an aspect of writing that not many people consider when they are writing: typography. The link was shared by on one of my social media feeds and it is essentially a book-in-a-website. An intriguing way to publish in itself (and certainly a subject for a discussion at some later date), it was less about the fact that the book was indistinguishable from the website and more about the content of the book. This is a book about typography. My social media friend had introduced it by writing, “If you care about the presentation of your writing as much as what you write (and you should), read this“. I would be lying if I said that presentation hasn’t been a source of frustration for me when I parse the submissions we get on Free-eBooks.net and Foboko.com.

The writer makes a very important point in “who is typography for?” section of his eBook: it is extremely unlikely that your readers are going to have the same amount of investment in what you have to say than you do yourself. Anything that is a detraction from your main subject – unless you share that interest with your reader – is going to distract them and lead them off in a direction that does you no good. Thus, your role as writer becomes doubly complex: it’s not about what you write, but also how you write it.

This is something I wish I could tell each and every author I come across. Pretty pictures, fancy font faces, background images – it may make your work look pretty to you, but when it gets to your readers’ hands, it’s just as likely to become “noisy” to them and therefore not worth their time and effort to read.

The trick, according to the author of Practical Typography, is to see your work through your readers’ eyes. “Writers of­ten get at­tached to ide­al­ized read­ers be­cause those read­ers are eas­i­er to please. Don’t be lazy. Work hard to see your text as an ac­tu­al read­er will.” To you it may be important to create the perfect work of art that is your book. And that’s fine if you are writing your book for just yourself and you don’t care if anyone ever sees or reads it. But I am assuming that by adding to the many websites like ours here at Free-eBooks.net and Foboko.com, you actually want readership. Thus it becomes important for you to consider who your readers are. And I can tell you that they aren’t a bunch of hungry people who will read just about anything you put in from of them. They do have tastes and preferences; figure out what those tastes are and cater to them – make their mouths water.

As writers, we also need to be readers … reading is how we expand our exposure to different topics, styles, formatting, options, etc. It’s also how we see other writers doing what we need to do. Striking that balance between creating that work of art that makes you swell with pride, while at the same time keeping the “noise” level low for the short attention-span of the average reader. It’s a high wire act all on it’s own and an act every writer should be learning to perform.

One thought on “Writing is just as much visual as it is contextual

  1. Steve Jobs was totally captivated by writing styles and calligraphy. Some say that is why Mac programs are so easy to read and understand. It also explains why the Macs have such a huge assortment of fonts. I agree with the assessment that some writers get mired in their own views and forget about the readers views.

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