Ooh, Center Align! Fancy! Wait… Text Alignment Rules?

This is part of a blog series on how to improve visual aesthetics on your blog (so readers wont get annoyed and leave it. So far, we’ve talked about line heights  and the ABCs of line lengths

So what am I going to touch on today? The one thing that makes me MOST irritated when reading someones blocks of text: poor alignment.

I can’t even describe the amount of times I opted out of reading something because someone thought center alignment was “just the neatest thing.”

Here’s what I mean by the different alignments.

Aligned text paragraphs

So we have our basic three alignments. Everyone knows alignments. When you were writing a poem about the wind and you wanted to make it fancy, you center aligned it to make it flowy and “extra special.” Well, there are rules on when to use specific alignments.

I’m not making the rules, just so you know. These rules date back to the hand-writing era, before there was such a thing as a printer. You’re probably thinking, “man, that time doesn’t matter anymore. Center alignment is how we roll on the web.” Not true.

Everything we still read and write has been based off of history. Our alphabet, our letters and some words are based off of Greek usage. They somehow unanimously decided that it is easiest to read characters from left to right, top to bottom. I know, I know; some other languages are written top to bottom and even right to left, but they aren’t based on the latin.

Now you’re bored because I am writing a history paper about how Grecians were our alphabet hipsters. But its important that you understand that there is a real reason things are done this way.

So now think of Greece before Romans took over. That was a long, long, long time ago. For years, words where chiseled, left aligned. The monks wrote everything left aligned, Gutenberg pressed everything at left align, so there were centuries of reading left alignment.

So why would your blog of three paragraphs be anything other than left alighn? Center alignment is only handy for call outs, titles, quotes, or some poem you wrote your grandma.

Don’t even get me started on right align. Nothing you ever write should be allowed to be right aligned. Don’t get me wrong, you might be able to get away with it for captions or “creative purposes,” but for your blog about how you don’t trust the neighbor next door and that’s why you spy on him, not useful.

Our eyes require contrast to read. Paragraphs have such a bold contrast, and when you mess with the contrast, the reader’s mind will notice, and deem it boring and complicated.

When I say “contrast,” I am not only referring to the black of the letters, but also the white space, and the area around your paragraph. When you right align your paragraph, you’re creating a sagged, rusty saw-edge that the reader is supposed to use to start each line of your text. Not easy. This also happens when you center content. When you create this jagged edge, readers can lose their place easier, and it creates create a visual blockade for the mind.

So, yeah. I know this post was more historically packed, but the reasons we read like we do are important to alignment. To sum it all up, left align ALWAYS best. Center for quotes, and Right alignment might as well be left alone.

If my blogs have helped you style your content and helped create a better reading environment on your own blog, please send me a link! Comment for a comment.

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