who is typography for?Readers,
not writers

Ty­pog­ra­phy is for the ben­e­fit of the reader, not the writer.

Other kinds of pro­fes­sional writ­ers—say, nov­el­ists and jour­nal­ists—don’t have to worry about ty­pog­ra­phy. They can pass their work to pro­fes­sional de­sign­ers who op­ti­mize the ty­pog­ra­phy for the in­tended audience.

But you can’t. You have to han­dle your own ty­pog­ra­phy. So you must also ne­go­ti­ate the con­flict of in­ter­est be­tween your per­spec­tive as a writer and that of your fu­ture reader.

“But every writer is also a reader—I end up read­ing the text sev­eral times while I’m rewrit­ing it.” True, but you don’t have the same goals as your fu­ture reader: to learn and pos­si­bly to be persuaded.

In fact, your reader is quite dif­fer­ent from you:

Attention spanLongShort
Interest in topicHighLow
Persuadable by other opinionsNoYes
Cares about your happinessYesNo

Le­gal writ­ers, un­for­tu­nately, of­ten imag­ine that the com­par­i­son looks like this:

Attention spanLongWhatever it takes
Interest in topicHighBoundless
Persuadable by other opinionsNoBarely
Cares about your happinessYesOf course

The only reader who might match that de­scrip­tion is your mother.

Ty­pog­ra­phy has to be ori­ented to ac­tual read­ers, not ide­al­ized ones. Writ­ers of­ten get at­tached to ide­al­ized read­ers be­cause they’re eas­ier to please. Of course—they don’t ex­ist. Don’t fall into that trap. Set aside the wish­ful think­ing and try to see your doc­u­ment from your reader’s per­spec­tive. You won’t get it per­fectly right. But a rough ap­prox­i­ma­tion is bet­ter than none.

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