Two Small Text Layout Ideas

Working at Paizo for the last few months, there are two concepts I’ve picked up on that I’m applying to other books down the road. They’re not mind-blowing ideas, but because we’re all learning this ad hoc, some techniques only get discovered as you’re working with different professionals.

Text Between Headers

If you look at Paizo products, you’ll see that wherever there’s a header, there’s at least one line of normal body copy between that at the next header. Usually it’s more substantial, but sometimes it’s just “The following may be selected at any level.” or similar.

The reason for this? It lets headers breathe on the page. They don’t run into each other, and it makes scanning on the page easier. So now when I’m working on a book, if the structure has me writing one header and then immediately after that a subheader, I stop to put something in between them. (Sometimes just “XXX” so that I know to come back to it later.)

Stop at H2s

We don’t go beyond second-level headers here, which blew my mind. As someone from a crunchy software background, getting deep with headers made sense. (I think we went down to H4s in some earlier Fate Core drafts, though not often.) So to see this limiter was interesting.

If there’s information breakdown after H2, it’s done in the body copy, with a bolded or italicized phrase & colon.

Second-Level Header

Here’s some more stuff!

Stuff 1: Stuff!

Stuff 2: More Stuff!

Stuff 3: Even more!

And you’ll notice that there’s a line in between the header and the further breakdown. (And the astute will notice that the colon isn’t styled.)


If you flip through some products (especially those over the last year, as the styles have evolved over time in both the editorial and art direction camps), you’ll see all sorts of little things like this. There’s so much I’ve learned here, which gets me fired up to come to work every day (aside from, you know, making games). Occasionally I’ll share what I’ve learned with y’all.

– Ryan


4 Responses to Two Small Text Layout Ideas

  1. Jonathan R says:

    WRT opposition to deep headers: this sounds like Feynmann’s gripe (via Edward Tufte’s “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint”) about NASA Powerpoint culture. His thesis is that going deep with outlines tend to be more distracting than instructive.

  2. Lugh says:

    So, I have to ask, because it’s been bugging me in some of my own work. Why is the style not applied to the colons? I stare at it. I flip it back and forth. I look at other text. I can’t figure out which way looks better.

    Is it strictly a taste thing? Or is there an actual principle at work here?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      You know, I don’t actually have an answer to that. I know that in the Mage books I’ve been working on, we stylize the colon. I prefer not styling it, I think, but if there’s a principle at work I don’t know it.

      – Ryan

  3. Michael Bowman says:

    Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style recommends continuing italics into following punctuation symbols, but not bold. This is because the bold makes the punctuation marks stand out too much. And italic characters are frequently obliqued & can run into neighboring regular punctuation symbols (like parentheses).

    Paizo has always had top rate layout and production, their books are a joy to look at.