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Pseudosyntax

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Rob Sawkins

I was schooled to set paragraphs tight and even, so I’m skeptical about the claims of Asymmetrica Labs that there are ‘decades of science have proven that uneven spaces add significant value to comprehension’.

What do others think of their claims?

http://www.asym.co/blog/2015/7/14/intro-asym-spacing

What about that line length when viewing the site on a desktop. That’s not good for readability right...?

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Ralf Herrmann

I agree with Kris:

Another one of these companies which just want to sell a pseudo-scientific technology whether it makes sense or not. Spritz falls into that category as well. The readability of that Quartz article is terrible. 

Edited by Ralf Herrmann
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Chris Lozos

Space, the new frontier.  I can't see a benefit to putting holes in the text.  If the writers had wanted a comma, they would have put one there.

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Kevin Larson

This is what I talked about in Barcelona at ATypI in Barcelona. One of the basic tasks that people have to carry out while reading a sentence is understanding the syntax of the words and how they fit together. Putting additional space at phrase and clause boundaries is one way of doing this, but there are other ways of providing this kind of punctuation.

The science on this is very strong. The comprehension benefits for adding information about syntax has been replicated in more than a dozen studies. The 10% improvement seen in the studies is an incredibly large effect. The studies have also shown that there is a greater benefit for people that struggle the most with reading, making it a very promising technology for people who need the most help.

Because this work has been carried out by reading psychologists, insufficient attention has been given to the typography. It would be great if we could figure out a way to help readers with syntax while still providing typographically sound text.

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Ralf Herrmann

Hi Kevin,
do you have links to a few of these studies, especially one that deal with such added spaces (not other ways to mark phrases)? Would love to see how the actual test setup was instead of just hearing of supposedly positiv results. 

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Riccardo Sartori

I easily believe that adding information about syntax helps understanding texts. My question is: the fact that apparently we need a “technology” that add spaces (or something else) to them in order to achieve this result, is a testament of shortcomings in written language or in established typographic conventions? Or it simply is a result of generally poorly written texts?

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Kevin Larson

The white paper by Asymmetrica is reasonable and has a good list of references.

http://www.asym.co/whitepapers/

Two good starting points for papers are North & Jenkins (1951) and Jandreau & Bever (1992). North & Jenkins was the first to use spacing between phrases. Jandreau & Bever is an excellent paper with line length controls.

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