To create a professional appearance for your book, at minimum you need to follow a few simple typographic principles:

  • Choose a typeface (font) and size that is easy to read and prints well (some typefaces are too light or too heavy). For help in choosing a typeface, see one of the many books and websites on this topic.
  • Use “curly quotes” (whether single or double quotation marks) and apostrophes—not “straight quotes”. (Note that some typefaces do not have these features.) To set up OpenOffice.org to use curly quotes, go to Tools > AutoCorrect Options > Custom Quotes and select the checkboxes for Replace. But don’t use curly quotes for symbols such as foot and inch—these are correctly done as straight quotes.
  • Be sure your curly quotation marks are the right way around. OpenOffice.org (and other programs) often gets them wrong. For example, the apostrophe in the phrase in the ’90s sometimes turns into an opening single quotation mark (‘). To fix this, type two apostrophes or double quotation marks and delete the first one, which turns in the wrong direction.
  • Use real dashes, not two or three hyphens. See Inserting dashes for instructions.
  • Use the correct symbols for copyright, trademark, registered trademark, degrees, multiplication signs (not an ordinary x), some fractions, and others. You can use either AutoCorrect or Insert > Special Characters for this, depending on the symbol.
  • Decide whether to use fully-justified or left-aligned (ragged-right) paragraphs. Many people think “real books” must use fully-justified text and ragged-right looks amateurish, but the latter is becoming more commonly used, including in books from big-name publishers.
  • Decide whether to hyphenate words at the ends of lines of type. If you choose to use fully-justified paragraphs, the word spacing may look awkward if words are not hyphenated, but the hyphe­nation dictionaries in software like OpenOffice.org are often incorrect. For more about hyphenation, see the next section.

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This book is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, version 3.0.

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One comment on “Typography
  1. Robert says:

    I’m using OpenOffice 4.0.0. With respect to changing straight quotes to smart quotes, using “Tools > AutoCorrect Options > Custom Quotes and select the checkboxes for Replace”, and replacing using the special characters feature, does work for me. I’ve checked language as English (USA). Straight quotes seem to be the default.