In scientific text, we use typography by preferring the functional element over the aesthetic one. You’ll almost always have to work with a template that pre-determines what fonts you should use, or how to format your margins, line spacing and headings. In this respect, you don’t have much to choose from. If you should be working with such a template, we recommend adhering to it, even if you don’t like it much – you basically have no other choice, and if you submit an article to a journal or anthology, you’ll be saving the editor or editorial staff a lot of work. If you want to do something more artistic, you can certainly draw inspiration from the Typographic manual, which covers the best of international typography.
For formal rules, you should have a look at this typographic cheat sheet – in it you can find everything you’ll need to write a text that won’t put your readers off visually before they even start reading. It includes information on how to write colons, percentages, quotation marks, slashes, and what to do with the ends of lines. We recommend printing out this cheat sheet and putting it up on your bulletin board – it’s sure to come in handy.
For the basic typographic minimum, you should remember that your text shouldn’t contain any “orphans” (i.e. one line at the end of the page) or “widows” (one line on the beginning of the page). A common program like MS Word is able to remedy this. Another common mistake is leaving one-letter words at the end of a line. This can also be remedied in the whole document automatically.
Perhaps the basic thing that we need in typography are fonts. We can use what the word processor offers us automatically, which is, for example, Calibri in Word, but we can also turn to special services that give us many more fonts – Google Fonts, Font Squirrel or Free Fonts Project will offer you an almost endless selection of fonts, which you can use on your webpage or in a document. Generally speaking, every font has a certain degree of trendiness or modernity to it, but it can also be off-putting – don’t be afraid to experiment with fonts. At the same time, remember that it’s suitable in one document to use only compatible font styles (For example, you can use different fonts for your headings and text, but they have to go together).
Each font has certain characteristics you can use to select them. The first you’ll be looking at is whether it’s serif (meaning the end strokes are prolonged) or sans-serif (the opposite), and whether it’s proportional (with the majority of fonts – ‘m’ is wider than ‘i’) or a mono-spaced font (e.g. Courier, Courier New). There are also fonts that are purely symbol-based or linked together, forming the impression of cursive writing. If you’re writing in English, you can use the following sentence to see all the letters in the alphabet in a certain font: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. In general, we usually use serif fonts in printed documents and sans serif in digital ones, but it’s not required!
If you want your resulting document to look nice, you’ll probably choose a publishing tool over creating it in a word processor. If you have professional ambitions, you can definitely use Adobe InDesign or the free Scribus, the simple SpringPublisher (free) or MS Publisher (a part of Office), or the affordable and excellent Affinity Publisher.