Butterick's Practical Typography Review

Everyone should read a book about typography. Why? You don’t want to use the wrong hyphen or dash for the rest of your life. Moreover, using good typography is as important as using correct grammar.

Matthew Butterick wrote a beautiful book about typography for ordinary writers, and when I say beautiful, I mean it. It’s a joy to read and I wish every book were such a feast for the eyes like this one.

Let’s return to the format of the book; as the author claims, it is an experiment to use the web as a proper publishing medium. That’s why he created a special typesetting system and the result is impressive. I read it on a computer and my Android tablet and the experience was just amazing. This book is a living proof of an internet site with a great typography.

By the way, the typesetting system mentioned earlier is written in Racket. Yes, you heard me—Mr. Butterick created the system in a Scheme-like language. The only thing that makes my inner geek sad is that it isn’t open. I would definitely like to see the source code. Anyway, it’s still cool beyond words!

At the beginning of the book, there is a summary of key rules. If you don’t have time to read everything, I would recommend going through at least these two chapters. If you stick to the rules, you will be better than 95% of professional writers, as the author says. Sounds like a great value for ten minutes of your time, doesn’t it?

After that, there is a chapter which explains the role of typography in our lives, and what difference a good use of it can make. The following chapters are about type compositions and symbols, covered in detail with practical examples.

I really liked that the examples are presented in two versions: one for a word processor, typically Word, and the other for web designers who use CSS. So, you can improve your site almost immediately.

The book continues with chapters about text formatting and font recommendations. In general, the author suggests buying professional fonts. However, there are still a few amazing free font tips.

The book ends with a chapter on page layout and some example documents. One of them is the Python documentation website. What I don’t understand is why Python didn’t adopt it: you can see the improvement right away.

In short, it’s a book everyone should read. It provides valuable knowledge you can benefit from almost instantly every day. The book was self-published and is available online for free. The author kindly asks for your support by buying his fonts, sending a donation, or sharing it with your friends.

I learned a lot and you should too. Thank you Mr. Butterick!


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