Thursday, 25 August 2011

A nasty case of boxitis

BAD - the box appears half way through a
sentence. When do you read it?
 I was recently reviewing the interesting Rough Guide to the Future, and felt compelled to moan a little about the use of boxes. For unknown reasons, some publishers love boxes. I don't mean the cardboard variety, but the publishing equivalent of the sidebar running down the righthand side of this blog - little separate bits of text that don't fit into the main flow.

Boxes work fine in magazines, newspapers (or blogs). They are also okay in a book that treats each two page spread as a separate entity. But the problem comes when you have a normal book where the text flows from page to page. At what point do you stop to read the box? You want there to be a natural break at the start or the end of the page, but there often isn't one. You may well have to stop reading the main text half way through a sentence to take a look at the box. Or alternatively ignore the box altogether.

GOOD - inline box. Positioned between
paragraphs. Reads with the flow of the book
Now I do have sympathy for the authors, as boxes are rarely their idea. The fact is there's a certain breed of publisher that just loves them. Business publishers delight in boxes, for example. They feel naked without them.

So please, publishers - have a heart. It's fine to have an in-line box that reads through with the main text. It's fine to have boxes on double page spreads, where the main text has a clear beginning and end without having to turn the page. But please don't impose boxes on us in a normally flowing book.

It doesn't work, it's nasty and it achieves nothing.

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