The third design element: line length


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Slide 1

The third design element is line length.

Slide 2

When researching this design element, several sources referred to long lines of text contributing to “eye fatigue” and the added stress on low literacy readers who had to read text that crossed the width of a standard 8 ½ by 11 page. Shorter lines of text are considered easier to read and the following recommendations are common ways to measure appropriate line length: Columns of text should be between 2 ½ to 4 inches across. Or 7 to 14 words (depending on the length of the words and the size of the font you are using). Another measurement , known as “alphabet and a half,” results in lines of text that are about 39 characters long, including spaces between words and after punctuation marks. For a standard 8 ½ x 11 page, it is recommended to use a two-column format. Sometimes a smaller third column, often referred to as a “side bar” can be used. A standard page in landscape, that is 11 x 8 ½, is often designed using a three-column layout. A tri-fold brochure is a good example.

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Lines that are too long have a negative impact on readability.

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Consider this example. Reading large blocks of text in this type of layout results in “eye fatigue” which causes strain on the eye muscles and frustration for many readers. Most documents we read, including books, magazine and newspaper articles, use short lines of text. Whenever possible, it is recommended to use a two-column layout for patient education materials.

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Here is an example of two layouts: one has text that goes across the width of the page, the other is designed using two columns. Which document looks easier to read?

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Another negative impact on readability is lines of text that are too short.

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In this example, a four-column layout creates lines that are too short. It is most noticeable when bullet lists are included as part of the text. Unlike long lines of text that contribute to “eye fatigue” as a result of the eyes scanning back and forth across the full width of the page, short lines of text cause rapid back and forth eye movements. This is equally frustrating to readers. In this example of a document designed in landscape format, it is recommended to use a three-column layout. For a standard 8 ½ x 11 page that is not in landscape format, it is recommended to use a two-column layout.

Slide 8

Here are some basic examples of two-column layouts. Columns can be of equal size, or one column can be wider than the other. This creates a main column and what is commonly referred to as a sidebar. Information that you want to highlight, contact information, a quote, or a list or additional resources related to the main topic are often found in sidebars. In a two-column layout, one column can be for text, the other can be used for graphics or photos that illustrate key points in the text. Using columns creates several options for your documents. Not only does it set your text in a line length that is easier to read, documents designed using columns look easier to read and provide a grid that promotes good blocking and layouts that re attractive.

Slide 9

Score your document using the readability scorecard. Add up the positive points for line length. Subtract any negative points to determine the overall score for this design element.

Slide 1

Improving Readability by Design 3. Line Length

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3. Line Length Recommendations for line length: 2.5” to 4” 7 to 14 words “Alphabet and a half” (39 characters) 2 column layouts Create shorter line lengths Offer variety

Slide 3

3. Line Length Negative impact on readability: Lines that are too long

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3. Line Length Negative impact on readability: Lines that are too long Lines that are too short

Summary: This presentation covers how line length impacts the readability of patient education documents.

Tags: design readability health literacy communication patient education doug seubert marshfield clinic

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