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Stop Using Subscript in Your Lit

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 12:37 AM
Or, Why Tiny Text Is Bad.

(FACT: It's not just because some of us have crappy vision.)

I know some of you like the effect, but here's the deal: do whatever you want on your own monitor and keep your hands off mine.

Did you know that, in Windows, holding Ctrl and moving the scroll wheel up or down changes font size?  You do now, and it's not much harder to change zoom size on a Mac (I hear it is most likely cmd++ or cmd+- , cmd+0 reverts it to the original size). I know it's just as easy in Linux, anyway.

I already have my browser's text size display set to what I want, thank you very much.



Anyone who uses Word must be familiar with the concept of font size in points: 12pt Times New Roman, especially, when it comes to turning in essays for teachers. (And 13pt periods for those of you who couldn't hit that minimum page count :lol:)

Well, here's the deal: Web display doesn't work quite the same way. You can force all text to be 16pt (which is pretty big) on your own website, but in general the standard is based around em, where 1em is the default size for whatever font you're using. I mention this because it's kind of a nice conceptual thing: smart web designers use em to determine sizes for things like header text, etc. The user is still the person in charge, as far as their browser goes.

1em is not a fixed value.


In my browser, 1em is probably 12pts. In yours, it might be something different (although I do mostly use the default setting, so there's a good chance it's the same).


Here's the thing: my screen is a 27" monitor with a resolution of 1920px (width) by 1080px (height).


To illustrate my point, I took the values from this approximate conversion and then plugged in the size of my monitor. For me, a single 12pt letter is something like 0.208" or 5.29mm wide.


If I had a larger monitor (someday...) or a lower resolution, it'd be bigger; if I had a smaller monitor or a higher resolution (which is currently impossible, except maybe on some Apple products), it'd be even smaller. For the record, 27" is bigger than the average desktop screen these days. People are more likely to have a 24" monitor at the same resolution, and that means smaller text.


And keep in mind that a 27" light source isn't exactly something you want shoved right into your face, so in addition to this small size, I'm sitting a foot away from the screen.



So that's the math on 12pt, which is the default size. Okay.


But sub/superscript is ~0.75em!


Using the same handy guide and this time assuming 9pts (actual size may be a bit less), I come up with 0.117" or 2.98mm.


Do you really think anyone will take an interest in reading something that is barely more than half the size of normal text? I mean, small quantities yes, or if I already think what you're going to say is worth reading, sure. But this principle doesn't apply to even a 500-word vignette, as far as submitted lit goes.


Also, a wonderful quote from pica-ae:


Super- and subscript have a purpose, and it's NOT to write whole paragraphs in them. 


The only reason I don't automatically delete all works like this is because I've made a fix for literature deviations. But please think about what this means, especially since it doesn't readjust line height, which leaves anything put through it looking like a high school essay back when teachers used to insist on double-spacing.


  • Your design choices are effectively worthless. Yeah, I went there. If this were a website, it'd be a slap on the wrist to the designer: I don't like what you want me to see, so I'm overriding it. (In reality, I skip the site.) It has the classiness level of taunts in the schoolyard, but with the added bonus of saving money on new glasses and headache pills.
  • If you think teeny text somehow changes the meaning of your words, making it full-size has got to be embarrassing. If the only reason your text has emotional value is because it's too small for people to read it clearly, here's a friendly protip: THE PROBLEM ISN'T THE FONT SIZE. (I thought about reiterating that in subscript to see if it would click better, but fuck it.)
  • Forum posts? You're kidding, right? Yeah, no, I'll bother if it seems like you're saying something interesting. I didn't make a fix for those because it'd be a bitch, and also because any ignoring of your opinion due to the way you've presented it is your own fault. You're okay with taking the responsibility for that, right? Good.



So anyway. I would like to say that as far as font size goes, you're still free to do whatever the hell you want—no need to listen to some cranky old lady with a big hulking monitor. I'm trying to say this, believe me, but it's about as easy as waving my hands and telling people that it's okay to have yellow text on a white background. It is bad design. You are making a bad design decision.



I hope the explanation of what monitor size and screen resolution can do to tiny text helped, for those of you who honestly don't realize how godsawful it is otherwise. Believe me, bitty text doesn't look so bad on my 11" netbook. But I also have adjusted my web browsers to display fonts at the sizes I prefer, and you thinking you know what I want to see better than me isn't going to fly.


So before you dump your whole thing in nonsensically small text, ask yourself one thing.


Am I doing this for myself or for my audience?



Counteropinions are always welcome, but if they're too small to read, I'm not bothering.


Now you know.



    Skin by Nobody
    I got around to checking what stuff is actually set to for me and here's what I learned:
    :bulletpink: My browser defaults to size 16. Actually this looks about the same as size 12 in Word at 100% zoom.
    :bulletpink: A lot of websites will overwrite with 12pt font and that's manageable. (Although silly. .95em is a better choice.)
    :bulletpink: On my computer, subscript is size 9.


    For people who care enough to read tiny text, you can limit minimum font size in Firefox and Chrome (Firefox it's in Advanced options next to the default font/size settings).

    That said, it isn't anyone's job to fix things because of *your* choices. Set your damn browser defaults.

    Huuuge thanks to ^pica-ae, who works in the industry so listen to her, for reading this over for me and also adding in the shortcuts for Mac (I asked her to check my facts back when I wrote this in January...okay, I kind of suck). Hope you don't mind me using that quote ;p (Also all the GIFs are from her Tumblr.)

    This applies to a lesser extent for forum posts, but really this is something you all should be thinking about. A lot of you guys are oddly hell bent on self publishing and 90% of that is marketing...do you think people will go to your website if they can't read it?
    Add a Comment:
     
    :iconsurrealcachinnation:
    SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014   Writer
    I had read this before--or opened it meaning to read it and never got around to it and it went away when my useless computer reset itself--and somebody just linked to it on a post I was reading.  And all I can say is "THANK YOU."

    Sometimes I use it for effect, mostly when I'm being silly.  Never in lit, though.  I used to screw around with visuals in my poetry, but one day I woke up and decided it was more annoying than useful and I stopped.  :P

    This is an example of being silly.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
    Darn, I didn't get any kind of notification for it o: Weeeird.

    Ha yeah, if you look closely my entire signature - including the link to this - is in subscript, and it's not like I literally never use it. Just not on anything tha tpeople are supposed to be reading.
    Reply
    :iconsurrealcachinnation:
    SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014   Writer
    I think they linked to it--they may not have mentioned your username or the article itself, in which case it wouldn't tag.  It was on someone's poll asking why people get riled up about using small text.

    So... we're not supposed to read your signature?  :giggle:
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
    Ohh it's because it was on a poll, linking would notify me otherwise.

    Only if you want :eyes:
    Reply
    :iconsurrealcachinnation:
    SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014   Writer
    Gotcha.  :D
    Reply
    :icondragoeniex:
    dragoeniex Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2014
    You've probably noticed, but I like the subscript for things like those fake warnings in the Neuro Cake ad. :P But the fact that people are often tempted to skip small text was the whole point. The corporation doesn't want to scare you away from the delicious product. It'll just sneak the warnings in where it has to. 

    On the whole, I don't like it when works have a high percentage of subscript. ^^; And even a small percentage has to feel justified. 
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
    Yeah, if you look closely my entire signature is in subscript :P If it's meant to be less obtrusive, great. If it's how the crux of your argument is presented, no.
    Reply
    :iconvanuinfiltrator:
    VanuInfiltrator Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
    Sorry, couldn't resist lol
    Reply
    :iconvanuinfiltrator:
    VanuInfiltrator Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
    I know right? So annoying!
    Reply
    :iconjahpan:
    Jahpan Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Student Digital Artist
    haha i love that this all has game of throne gifs  :lol: :la:
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
    :giggle:
    Reply
    :iconheatphones:
    Heatphones Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
    I was sneaking in your Signature, as I saw that... I use a Font as well, but it isn't making my Text smaller, so I guess, that is fine? :iconlazypoolplz:
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
    Nah, although I personally prefer my font, Courier has some very useful properties :D
    Reply
    :icondeviant-garde:
    deviant-garde Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013
    I hate it when people use obnoxious formatting in any prose, but subscript is definitely one of the most prevalent and offensive crimes committed on this website.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Yeeep.

    Like, seriously, stop trying to fuck with my screen.
    Reply
    :iconcraazhy:
    Craazhy Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2013  Professional Writer
    I skimmed the text. The clever application of GoT gifs let me know it was worth faving. I did it.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    WIN.
    Reply
    :iconrachburns:
    RachBurns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
    Thank you so very much for mentioning about changing the minimum size for things about Chrome. :hug: 
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Sure :love: I was excited to learn that too.
    Reply
    :iconrachburns:
    RachBurns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
    Granted that now I have everything set up my page has changed a little. :giggle: Not at all sorry for it! 

    I wish they had a way to make subscript and superscript only useable in the literature stuff. But then we'd end up with subscript in 500+ words, I wouldn't doubt!
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Woooorth it :dance:

    Omg, yeah. And someone would find a way, somehow. They must really love it if they're willing to type it out all the time!
    Reply
    :iconrachburns:
    RachBurns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
    Very so! :iconyaaayplz: It's nothing that can't be gotten used to again. ^^

    It'd almost be nice if it didn't exist at all. But, as you've mentioned, there are real uses for the sub and sup scripts, so that wouldn't be fair for the ones who do need it. Yaaagh all the decisions that the ones up top have to make. XD
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :highfive:

    haha, well I do have a thing installed to disable it in literature uploaded to this site. I probably could've made a hack for forum comments, too, but I don't think it's worth it. So there is a certain degree of freedom for users!
    Reply
    :iconrachburns:
    RachBurns Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
    What is the thing that disables sub in lit? 

    And I agree, it's probably not worth the work to change forums. :nod: Then the wrong people'd get ahold of it and have tantrum over tantrum about it, not thinking to just uninstall the trick. At least I'd assume they would, what and how people fuss over the most minor of things.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    userstyles.org/styles/79099/re… here you go! Let me know if it doesn't work :P

    Although that is what they should do - change it on their own computers.
    Reply
    (1 Reply)
    :iconpiratesadventure:
    PiratesAdventure Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2013
    Okay, next time someone is being a bitch with subscript again in the forum, I am so going to link this.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    That's what I made it for :P
    Reply
    :iconplaguejester:
    PlagueJester Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013
    Magnificent. Thank you for writing this, all too true.

    I explained this to someone a few months ago and it turns out that they actually listened to what I said, considered it, and went with the method of adjusting their own screen with ctrl+scroll wheel instead of making everything hard to read on my screen.

    I keep the font quite small on my own screen for comfort, and hate it when people subscript. It makes it impossible to see.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Oooo awesome.

    It's smaller on my netbook and phone U:
    Reply
    :iconfotomademoiselle:
    fotomademoiselle Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
    I rather enjoy subscript... >))>
    I find it easier to focus on reading stories when they are smaller, because I have to scroll less on my screen. I can view the fonts bigger but not smaller, so that's why I like subscript. Buuut everyone is entitled to their own opinion! :3
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    You could set your browser's text size to be smaller. In my case, size 20 font would still fit on a single page :B
    Reply
    :iconfotomademoiselle:
    fotomademoiselle Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
    How do you do that on a Macbook? :confused:
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    It actually depends on your browser, not your computer! What do you use? :)
    Reply
    :iconfotomademoiselle:
    fotomademoiselle Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
    Safari!
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Oh no, that's the one browser I don't know about :B But there seem to be tips online! [link]
    Reply
    :iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
    Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013
    underline, strikethrough, small font, big font, itallics (unless really really necessary to make a distinction between things known) etc. All of that stuff.

    IF YOU NEED THAT SHIT THE WRITING ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.

    The words should be conveying everything those formatting tricks can convey and more. If you need that, if you think you need them, then don't use them, ask what you want the thing to say AND GODDAMN SAY IT BETTER.

    This is a huge pet peeve of mine. If I see these things happening and they didn't need to, I don't read. I don't comment. And typically, I write the person off as someone I'm uninterested in dealing with.

    Unless your name is E.E Cummings (or you are as talented\brilliantly intelligent) I don't want to see this kind of crap.
    Reply
    :iconplaguejester:
    PlagueJester Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013
    Excellent point! I hadn't ever considered that, but I do suppose it can be viewed as the person trying to put a bunch of makeup on the ugly face of their writing.
    Reply
    :iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
    Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013
    That's pretty much exactly what a lot of people will think.

    The only exception to this is italics.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Ha, ouch.

    If I see someone who's super unconfident using them when the words work just fine without, I'll mention that. But if literally everything they do is formatted that way and it's clear that's the way *they* want to see everything, nothing to do.

    I'm privately convinced Cummings was trolling a little, though :P I suppose he is smart enough to get away with it.
    Reply
    :iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
    Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013
    Problem 1

    The writer, especially a writer on DA, might have intention behind those choices, and they are still almost always wrong. It just isn't as effective as good writing. If you lean on crutches forever, your legs never get strong.

    Cummings probably was, but it was so well done we all sit and sigh and say, "fucking brilliant" anyway.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Seriously!
    Reply
    :iconbraxton-t-rutledge:
    Braxton-T-Rutledge Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013
    See, you should stop disagreeing with me. I'm right. Always and forever.

    (kidding)
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :lol: Not to mention not arguing goes against my nature.
    Reply
    :iconstory-of-a-mind:
    Story-of-a-Mind Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
    As a webdesigner, I totally agree :D
    If anyone wants there text to look "better", I recommend the use of "em" and "strong" tags, as those are also barrier-free even for screen-readers :)
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :nod: I would stay away from strong because it just looks too much like shouting, personally, but yeah. Em forever!
    Reply
    :iconstory-of-a-mind:
    Story-of-a-Mind Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
    :nod: you are right. You have to be careful with "strong", because it is just what it name says: strong.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :nod:
    Reply
    :iconladybrookecelebwen:
    LadyBrookeCelebwen Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    I think the main use for them is in comments between two people who already agreed on the use of subscript, striked through text, ect (like I said in a comment to someone). It makes it a hell of a lot easier if you're trying to roleplay and have a normal conversation with someone. :shrug:

    I don't use subscript in my stories (italics and bold are my only ones, and that's because I'm too lazy to hand-write out all stories that have letters, and I haven't figured out how to code them to be in different fonts. The default one sends me into fits of rage for most letters. If someone doesn't want to read it...well, fine. I'll accept that in return for my own sanity. :lol:)

    Of course, I also don't care about its use that much. :shrug: I have to read plenty of books with small font for school. I'm confused as to why someone would do it on the web, where saving 100 pages isn't going to save money, but whatever.
    Reply
    :iconneurotype:
    neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :nod: Sounds right. I use it in comment threads when we're having like a real conversation and then snide side remarks.

    Oh, come on, it's easy! And you could drop on a journal skin to make it even easier now. :P You may want to check what your browser's set to, too.

    Also in print, you don't have to deal with GIANT FACE LIGHTBULB or the pixel limitations of monitors.
    Reply
    :iconladybrookecelebwen:
    LadyBrookeCelebwen Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    :nod: It has it's uses.

    dA confuses me though! I can do it on other sites, but here...I could drop a journal skin. I'd need to find one first. :shrug: I'm fine with the default for everything else, but just like I can't accept that schools aren't teaching cursive anymore, straight up and down looks wrong to me for letters.

    Good point. I think I'm just too used to reading online. Of course, in both I have to deal with people complaining about length "Did you finish the chapter?" Yes. Also, why are we discussing if we actually read the textbook right in front of the professor? WHY?
    Reply
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