Even on the Web, Don't Forget Punctuation
Use real apostrophes and quotation marks. On a typewriter this was not possible, but there is a difference between a foot mark and an apostrophe. Likewise, there is a huge difference between an inch mark and opening and closing quotation marks. Check your software documentation to see how to do this. It might seem a bit of a pain, but it is worth the effort to get a professional looking result. By the way, "punctuation always goes inside quotation marks as at the end of this sentence; always!"
Never use all capital letters for emphasis. Type set in all CAPS is hard to read and is again a sign of amateur typesetting. Use bold type instead. On the Internet, in email or chat rooms, all caps is considered shouting. Itís rude. Keep this in mind when tempted to use all capital letters in your printed pieces.
Avoid using left and right justified text unless your lines of type are long enough to get away with it. Many people think text should be justified both left and right to look professional but this is not true. Many times if your columns of type are very narrow as in the case of a tri-fold brochure, justifying the text will result in large gaps between words making the type look strange and actually making the reader think of these gaps as pauses, such as where a comma might be used. Be sure that your DTP software is set to auto-hyphenate where necessary and left justification looks just fine.
Watch out for widows, words left by themselves on the last line of a paragraph, as above. If you have to, adjust the letter spacing of your paragraph so that the last word will fit on the line above, or rewrite the last sentence to avoid the widow. In some cases it's OK to leave a widow on the last line if it's a long word and the length of the lines is short.
When designing your piece, avoid using shaded screen backgrounds for separation or emphasis of parts of the page. This looks good on professionally printed materials but for the most part, screens look bad on forms or promotional materials that are laser printed or photocopied. Instead, use simple frames, white space, or a different font to separate a particular element from the rest of your copy. If you must use screened backgrounds, be sure to print the document with a coarse dot pattern so the photocopier is capable of reproducing the dots consistently.
On the same subject, when you're planning on copying scanned photographs, use the maximum coarseness in the halftone screen of your photo. A high quality laser printer might print a photo that looks good with very tiny halftone dots, but the photo will look bad when copied. Set your printer to do halftone photos at no more than 85 lines per inch or you'll be sorry.
Remember the Pro
If you follow these simple tips you're well on your way to producing printed materials that have a moderate degree of professionalism. Don't hesitate to look at professionally designed brochures, magazines and business forms for ideas. If you really want to give the best impression to your potential customers, forget about desktop publishing and consider hiring a real graphic arts professional to design and print your stuff. They know what looks good and the dollars you spend will be worth it, attracting new customers and impressing your current ones.
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