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Desktop Publishing Rules and Standards

written by: Camesha White•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/28/2010

Want to work in the desktop publishing field, or simply just want to learn more about the topic? Here are the standard principles used by professionals.

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    Rules of Desktop Publishing

    There are no desktop principles written in stone, and rules can vary. There are procedures and standards to ensure the document creation process runs smoothly and is understood by the majority. Here is a closer look at a few basic rules for desktop publishing.

    Define the audience. Understand who you are speaking to, and discover the best way to present information to these people. Defining the audience consists of designing the elements of graphic design to create a document that will attract the desired audience.

    Use white space accordingly. White space is the area in a document where there is no text or graphics. When used effectively, white space can be used to guide the reader’s eyes exactly where you want them to go. Adjust the white space by changing line spacing, column spacing, and margins.

    Do not use ALL CAPS for headings. Use the standard headline style for headers. Capitalize the first letter of each word in the title, except for prepositions composed of three letters or less. It decreases readability when all words of a headline or title are caps.

    Space once at the end of a sentence. Many have been taught to space twice when ending a sentence, but this is not true. According to the standard rules of desktop publishing, there should only be one space following a punctuation mark.

    Don’t go overboard with fonts. With so many fonts to choose from, it’s no surprise anyone would want to experiment and use as many as possible. To create a clean and organized document, use as few fonts as possible. Some of the most popular and accepted fonts are Times New Roman, Arial, and Georgia.

    Margins. Using the correct margin settings is most important in word processing. If not careful, your words can be printed off the page or cause the text to be spaced incorrectly. Margins vary according to project so be sure to do your research beforehand.

    Spacing. Another word processing rule, this is very essential when it comes to readability. Desktop publishing professionals also refer to spacing as leading. Most programs come preset with the correct spacing setting.

    Balance. Remember, you want to make your document readable as well as attractive. Don’t overwhelm the viewer with too much crowded or cluttered information. Pay close attention to things such as:

    • Contrast (balance of light and dark tones)
    • Proximity (distance between elements)
    • Consistency (how often certain elements or messages appear)
    • Alignment (the position of an element on a page in relation to other elements)

    This is only the surface. Achieving balance throughout your document adds to the overall effect of the document. The document is useless if the elements are improperly placed.

    Before taking a dive into any project, it is important to first understand the principles and what is necessary in order to create a document that is pleasing. Following the rules for desktop publishing is important to create the perfect document.

Understanding Desktop Publishing

Confused about what desktop publishing is and what it's used for? These articles gives users a better idea and more concrete understanding of desktop publishing, DTP software, and its many uses in the DTP field today.
  1. Desktop Publishing Explained
  2. Desktop Publishing Rules and Standards
  3. Most Common Uses of DTP Software
  4. Top Desktop Publishing Programs for Windows
  5. Desktop Publishing Extensions for the Mac
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