A runt is an unappealing short line at the end of a paragraph. It's usually only one word, but sometimes it's a couple or three really short words. 

Runts are sometimes known as widows, but a widow is the first line of a new paragraph at the bottom of a page (an orphan, on the other hand, is the last line of a paragraph at the top of a page). I really hate the term "runt", and I wish whoever coined the term had called them urchins, to preserve the Dickensian tone. The term runt is all over the internet now, so I guess we are stuck with it.

As far as I can tell, Robert Bringhurst doesn't have a name for them at all. In The Elements of Typographic Style, he writes "Avoid leaving the stub-end of a hyphenated word, or any word shorter than four letters, as the last line of a paragraph."

I'm much less lenient than Bringhurst. I prefer the last line of my paragraph to be at least a third of the measure (column width). This sometimes creates spacing issues if you're using justified alignment without hyphenization (which I almost always am). I'd rather have a short last line than ugly spacing.

Manually fixing runts

One way to fix runts is to replace the space between the last two or three words with a non-breaking space (InDesign: Opt+Cmd+X). Another way is to create a character style called "No Break" which has the "No Break" option checked under "Basic Character Formats". Both these methods are tedious, so I prefer to let InDesign do the work for me using GREP styles.

Automatically fixing runts

In the Paragraph Style Options editor, select the GREP Style tab and create a new GREP style.

Next to Apply Style, select your No Break style, or create one. You might want to create a new style based on "No Break" called something like "fix runts", and temporarily set the character color to red. This will show exactly which words are being affected, and you can easily scan the document looking for spacing issues.

Which characters are being affected are determined by the GREP expression you put in the To Text: field. My own expertise in GREP is limited to knowing when it can save me time and being able to hack it enough to suit my needs. I've collected the following GREP expressions from various places on the internet:

My favorite GREP expression for fixing runts

I love this one because of it's simplicity.

.{10}$

This ensures that the last ten characters of a paragraph are never broken. I usually change this value to 15 or 20. Sometimes, I'll create separate paragraph styles with lower values and none at all to use in the event of weird spacing issues.

Other GREP expressions for fixing runts

From a very helpful page on GREP styles. You'll find an in-depth discussion of this expression over there.

\s(?=\w+~S?[[:punct:]]$)

I'll add more as I come across them.

Posted
AuthorBrennen Reece
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I'm constantly being emailed substandard photographs which lower the property values of my beautiful layouts. Enough was enough, so I wrote these guidelines to email to long-distance clients.

The Ideal Portrait

The ideal portrait is a studio portrait taken by a competent photographer and saved at high resolution without compression (such as a TIFF file). If possible, have the photographer forward the file directly to us.

TIFF is the standard image format for print. JPG files usually leave out information to save space, while usable, this is not the most desirable option. GIF files aren't ever good for photographs, even on the web.

The Next Best Thing

If you don't have a studio portrait, here are some tips for taking a decent portrait on your own:

  • Leave plenty of space around the subject. The more headroom the subject has, the more options I have in composing and cropping the photograph.
  • Use natural light, preferably outside on an overcast day. On sunny days, the light is too harsh and causes the subject to squint. Overcast days provide naturally diffused light which will make your subject appear more attractive.
  • If you have a camera with manual focus, make the background as out of focus as possible.
  • Use a neutral background that contrasts with the subject.
  • Watch out for objects in the background that stick out of the top of the subject's head (such as telephone poles or tree branches).
  • Be aware of glare and reflections in glasses.
  • Don't use flash. Flash destroys the shadows which make the face appear 3-dimensional on a 2-dimensional surface (paper or screen). This is what adds those proverbial ten pounds in photographs.
  • Did I mention not to use flash?
  • An exception: the only time you should EVER use flash when taking a portrait is when you have no choice but to take the photo on a sunny day and there are lots of distracting shadows on the subject's face.
  • Take lots of photos. Professional photographers might take a hundred photos for every one that gets used.

Resolution and File Size

The larger the file, the better it reproduces in print. The standard resolution (amount of detail) for a photo on the web is 72 ppi (pixels per inch). The standard resolution for a printed photograph (in a magazine, for example) is 300 ppi. A photograph at standard resolution will reproduce on paper at approximately 25% the size that it will on a web page.

A 4" x 5" photo will have the dimensions of 1200 x 1500 pixels.

Follow these guidelines and you will make a graphic designer very happy.

Posted
AuthorBrennen Reece