Justify

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Dr. Goodword
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Justify

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:55 pm

• justify •


Pronunciation: jês-tê-fai • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To prove reasonable, correct or just. 2. To be reasonable, correct or just. 3. (Printing) To make the right and left sides of a paragraph perfectly parallel with the margins.

Notes: Here is a term originally befitting debates and argumentation that took on a radically different sense in the printing world (see Word History). It has an active adjective, justificatory, and a passive one. justifiable. The noun for it is justification. It is based on the adjective just, whose noun is justice.

In Play: The basic meaning of today's word is more at home in argumentation: "At sentencing, the man convicted of murdering his parents tried to justify his plea for mercy with the fact that he was an orphan." In printing it is used this way: "Some editors believe that justifying a text produces excessive hyphenation."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French justifier "to justify, account for", inherited from Late Latin iustificare "act justly toward; make just". This verb is based on iustificus "that acts justly", from iustus "just" + combining form of facere "to make, to do". Latin created justus from PIE yewes-/yewos- "law, right". This PIE word made its greatest impression on Latin. We only find Old Irish huisse "right" and Sanskrit yoh "hail" in other Indo-European languages. This word underwent rhotacization (where [s] becomes [r]), so we find jurare "to swear (an oath)", whence French jurée "oath" and juriste "legal expert", upon which English jury and jurist are based. The sense of "make consistent" arose in the 16th century. It applied to globes, thicknesses, molds, etc., according to the examples in the Oxford English Dictionary. The meaning narrowed to the current third sense around the turn of the 20th century. (Gratitude is now due newcomer Barbara Beeton for suggesting today's Good Word with the odd semantic twist.)
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Philip Hudson
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Re: Justify

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Nov 30, 2020 2:52 pm

While justified text is the most common it is not the most readable. Ragged right, AKA Left-justified, is better. Also serif fonts are more readable than sanserif fonts. New Times Roman is the best font for writing. I do use a sanserif font when quoting someone. It is good for contrast. The above is common knowledge among typographers but many people prefer the sanserif because it looks "cleaner". I am okay with either.
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David Myer
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Re: Justify

Postby David Myer » Tue Dec 01, 2020 7:05 am

Now there's a provocative can of worms, Philip.

There is much debate on this. I saw the other day (I think somewhere on this site) a discussion that suggested sans serif is a much better (more readable) font for on-screen reading. I haven't studied the research that proves the point. I think serif fonts are nearly always used for book printing, but again there are arguments that short pieces in printed works can be better in sans fonts.

I agree with you on ragged right being preferable to justified left and right.

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Re: Justify

Postby bbeeton » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:34 pm

The reason for justification is mechanical (and traditional). When books were printed from hand-set type, it was absolutely necessary that all lines be exactly equal in length, otherwise the type would fall out of the chase during printing. And that would certainly spoil one's day. Of course, the extra "spaces" (metal slugs) could have been added at the end of the line (on the right for western languages, on the left for Arabic, etc.), but that would have gone against long calligraphic tradition, where lines were filled up so as not to waste parchment.

As for readability of serif vs. sans serif fonts, if referring to computer screens, unless the resolution is quite high (at least 300 pixels per inch), serifs can't be rendered cleanly, so sans serif is indeed more legible. These days, the distinction is largely a matter of personal taste, unless one happens to be dyslexic. (That's a special case.) But there are still a few characters where special care must be taken to ensure accurate understanding: capital O vs. zero, and capital eye vs. lowercase ell vs. digit one. Mistaking one for another can, especially in this computer age, be at best annoying, and at worst, catastrophic.

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Re: Justify

Postby David Myer » Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:27 pm

Very interesting, Barbara. Thank you

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Re: Justify

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Dec 02, 2020 11:44 pm

I appreciated your insights on these matters, too, Barbara.
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