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The 1927 Composition Rules

The study of typography and composition theory needn’t be mysterious nor difficult. It is difficult to design sites with printing rules because of the screen medium it’s-self. [Drop caps are—Especially—irksome.]

Jan Tschichold’s Penguin Composition Rules adapted for web writing was posted by Jordan Harper [2nd May 2006] on Beyond Standards. It’s nicely done.

“Ideally, each paragraph should be indented 1em of the font body size, or a space equal to the line-height of the text. Indents should be omitted for the first paragraph of any text, and at the beginning of a new section that comes under a subheading.”

I’ve unremembered Mr. Tschichold’s [1947] rules established for Penguin Books until I read the above. I suggest you read the rules before reading further. And, The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.

The middle paragraphs in the text in the image below illustrate the rule noted above.

[National Geographic Magazine, Advertisement (1927)]

I prefer typography and composition from archaic publications. Principally, advertisements. Because they are concise due to their space allotment; it is not a limitation when done correctly. And, all of these ancient advertisements are formal grid designs. My collection of empirical study works—as regards typography—includes all sorts of printed matter but my constant source are National Geographic’s, circa 1923 - 1940. They are precise and formal.

Cascading Style Sheets, Level 2 [May 2, 1998] has a simple method for indentation of the first line of a paragraph.

The following should be placed in the universal (global) selector section at the beginning of the style sheet:

p
 { 
 text-indent: 20px;
 }

However, if one is to follow The Penguin Rules, the first sentence of the article requires no indentation. So. A Class selector, placed below the universal (global) selector section. [It’s that cascading effect.]

p.article-first-sentence
 { 
 text-indent: 0;
 }

Print-like selectors have been proposed. [See Introduction to CSS3, Selectors. And, CSS3 module: Generated Content for Paged Media.] Still, some browsers do not recognize them, i.e., IE. [Caveat: CSS3 pseudo-selectors are not recognized by The W3C CSS Validation Service; and, therefore, validation fails.]

Monkeyshine all that’s fit; however, study rules afterwards.

—From The Principles of Typography and Composition Series: An Unchronological order of articles regarding elementary rules of composition in History


Sean Fraser posted this on June 13, 2006 03:04 PM.

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The Elementary Standards: A Compendium of Web Standards, CSS, Linguistics and Search Engine Optimization methodology Copyright ©2005-2007 Sean Fraser. All work is published under a Creative Commons License. All Rights Reserved.

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