Justifying our aversion to full-justified text

Why justified text is harder to read and the impact it can have on your audience

Why are we so averse to justifying the text on materials we produce?

We understand why we are asked to do this – we can see that in some respects justifying text can make documents look ‘neater’.

However, while we always want the materials we produce to be aesthetically pleasing, our job as graphic designers is not merely to make something look good.

Instead, our job is to use our skills in visual communication and design to ensure that whatever it is you are trying to communicate can be easily understood by whoever is on the receiving end.

And when it comes down to it this is our problem with full-justified text – it just isn’t as easy to read – particularly for people with cognitive disabilities (including dyslexia).

Justified text and readability?

Because, justified text affects readability and tracking.

Full-justified text results in straight left and right edges of a text block and therefore leads to uneven space between words and letters within words.

The extra space between some words makes it difficult for the eye to correctly follow along the line and then in some cases there will be less space between words which makes it harder to distinguish words.

There is then often inconsistent spacing within words making it harder to quickly see the difference between words and letters.

Overall, the uniform shape of the paragraph makes it easy for the eye to get ‘lost’ when it’s going from the end of one line to the start of another. When there isn’t a broken line on the right hand side then when our eyes trail back they can’t find the next line – this is why people end up reading the same line twice in a book.

Even if the eye is only missing the odd word it means the brain has to think harder about what the message is that it’s meant to be absorbing which ultimately makes the experience more frustrating for the reader.

As ever, there are always exceptions. In a newspaper for instance the straight lines used as margins can be used to guide the eye.

Graphic design is underpinned by a whole series of rules and research such as this, to deploy our expertise on your next project Get in touch