Justified text or ragged right edge?

The popular opinion of designers is to use ragged right edges on text, that is the left side of the paragraph is straight and lined up, while the right side is not, with spacing between letters and words standardised.

However, books, magazines, and newspapers all use justified text, which has straight edges on both sides. They can do this for two reasons - it works better when the columns are narrow with only a few words per row; and they have the power to hyphenate correctly, which allows them to adjust spacing should they need to.

The argument goes that it’s easier to read, especially for those who have difficulty reading, when the spacing is regular. It’s also easier to keep track of what line you’re on when they are distinguished by length.

However, I maintain that text that has 12 to 18 words per line looks perfectly fine, even nicer, when justified, and the spacing is less of an issue at that level.

What say you?

There are some examples on this page.

Plus I use justified text on my blog (you don’t have to actually read it, it’s not very interesting).

I justify just about everything I print.

I hate reading newspaper articles where a word or two end up s t r e t c h e d o u t so that the text can be justified. If you need columns, fine but I really don’t care whether you justify or left align, just please don’t stretch the words.

As a newspaper sub-editor, I think justified text is a hassle. You end up having to reword sentences so they don’t stretch (like Inner Sticker points out) or end up crammeduptightlikethis so they’re unreadable.

If it is meant to be printed, such as a final report, or a business letter, I like justified. In all other cases, I use ragged right.

Left aligned, ragged right edge for me. I hate mangled spacing and I hate seeing words split by hyphens even more.

Always justified. Even when I’m translating right-aligned texts, I justify. It just looks more professional.

Justified may look prettier when you’re just gazing at the page as a whole, but for me it does nothing to enhance readability. Weird spacing and excess hyphenation are unnecessary distractions. Give me left-aligned.

Left-aligned. And people that center poems that we not originally centered (i.e., 99% of poems) have a special hell waiting for them.

Left aligned, please. I want as few words hypenated as possible.

Left-aligned. Screw the right edge - it’s the trailing end. No one should care.

My inner editorial nazi gets all prickly when spacing isn’t correct and standardized, or when hyphens are used gratuitously.

Hyphens? At 11-point text on a A4 page (with normal-to-narrow margins), I’ve never needed hyphens.

Left-aligned. Gah, I hate stretched and scrunched text.

If the columns are wide enough, it makes no difference to me whether the text is justified. If they’re too narrow then you get the obvious problems when it’s justified.

As a former editor and writer, I hated justified text with a rare passion. It looks like a legal brief. Left-justified (with the ragged right edges) all the way.

This is my argument too. So if it makes no difference, I continue, why not pretty up both edges just to make the page/screen look nice? I’ve never used hyphenation on a webpage (I believe it’s possible, though) but it is done in books etc.

But popular opinion clearly doesn’t agree with me. An overwhelming majority has a left-aligned preference.

Justified text can be vexing to read what with the hyphenation, cramping, and stretching.

I’d rather read left-aligned text but I can understand why newspapers and magazines justify.

Slightly off topic: I do a lot of reading online and I adjust the width of my Firefox window pretty regularly to narrow up the text. I can’t stand reading for miles across a long monitor.

depends how narrow the columns are. I prefer justified for a normal page of text.

Unless I’m using columns, it’s always justified.

Justified. For the stodgy engineering documents I write, everything must be orderly.