How to lay out your copy to best effect

How different layouts are perceived by your audience

People process what they read in print differently to what they read on screen, as we explained here. But how does the formatting of your copy, regardless of the medium, affect how people take it in, and how can you use this to your advantage?

Your materials should be understood as you intend, as well as look good. To help you when you’re creating your own materials and understand why we lay things out the way we do we’ve delved into how text alignment can impact people’s perceptions of your message, as well as how they digest it.

In particular, with so many social assets containing centred copy, we’ve looked into the pros and cons of centre aligning your text.

Advantages of Centre-Aligned Text

  1. Aesthetics: Centre alignment looks nice (situation dependent!) Most people find centre alignment to be visually pleasing, largely due to how it can appeared balanced.  This is why you often find it used for event invitations. Crucially though this is the case where you don’t have lots of copy and you can keep the lines of text short.
  2. Variety and Emphasis: In a predominantly left-aligned text layout, centering text draws attention to specific content. For instance, a centered pull quote in an article can be used to emphasise a key message.

Disadvantages of Centre-Aligned Text

  1. Readability Challenges: One of the main drawbacks of centre alignment is reduced readability, which makes your content less accessible than it could be, just like justified text as we wrote about here. This is because it forces the reader to constantly adjust their eye position, making it more difficult to follow lines of text continuously as it’s harder to find the next line – as W3 explain here. If, therefore, you have a decent chunk of content, like a long paragraph or more you’ll tire your readers by centering it – not a feeling you want to be inducing in your audience.
  2. Ragged Edges: Center-aligned text leads to uneven, ragged edges on both sides of the text block. This irregularity can be distracting to your readers and makes a clean layout a challenge. This is why it’s ok for event invitations where there’s normally not a lot of copy.
  3. Inconsistent Spacing: Centered text can lead to inconsistent spacing between words and lines. When this does occur it disrupts the flow of reading making it harder for readers to discern the structure of the content.

As with most graphic design ‘rules’, there are always instances where they can be broken. But, in general it’s best to err on the side of caution. Centre away for short, eye-catching elements like headings or quotes where you want to make an impact but avoid elsewhere.

For longer bodies of text, left-aligned is your best bet for maintaining readability and visual consistency.

Need to make an impact with your copy?

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