Typographic Style for Computer Scientists

Typographic Style for Computer Scientists is a short article intended to bring computer scientists up to speed on typographical issues. I started writing it several years ago, and then set it aside for other projects. Recently, I decided rather than wait for it to be “complete” and perfect that I should polish it up a little and see if people could benefit from it.

It is probably far from comprehensive, but hopefully some people will find it useful. I had been thinking of perhaps adding some material specifically on inference rules and judgments, but I am not sure what else it might make sense to include.

If you find mistakes please let me know. If you disagree on some of what I have said, let me know and perhaps I can address your concerns.


  1. Brian said,

    August 9, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    That was a nice, short read.

    I’ve known about 2.1.8 (punctuation immediately after a displayed equation). I noticed that you didn’t include any space before the punctuation, whereas somewhere along the way, I picked up the habit of including small space, e.g.

    \[ … an equation \, . \]

    Any thoughts here?

  2. Evangelos Tsagkas said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

    Page 7, that should be Wadler there 🙂

  3. washburn said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    @Evangelos: Thanks for catching that. It should be fixed in the current version.

    @Brian: I had not heard of that before (or if I have, I have since forgotten), but I did a Google search and I found a few places that mentioned this, including two calls for papers. Without a more concrete reference I don’t think I would say that it should be required, but it probably looks fine, so it seems like a reasonable idea. I’ll add a comment about it in the next revision.

  4. oxlahun said,

    August 25, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    On page 6, I find the italicized sample harder to read at some resolutions because Acrobat renders the letters shorter. As I resize the window, with the page auto-scaled to fit it, the italic type does not scale as smoothly as the roman. There’s not much you can do about my software choices, of course, but it might be worth inserting some caution to your readers that italics are sometimes too fine to be legible in low-res situations. It’s good to be aware of how one’s type will be encountered, not just how it looks on one’s own system.

    Other than that little nit, I think the article is wonderful, and will likely be passing it around my office. 🙂

  5. Joshua Dunfield said,

    October 1, 2009 @ 3:17 am

    s/just proceeding/just preceding/

    2.1, rule 7: I agree that the sentence before an equation is not *required* to have a colon, but one may be acceptable. For example:

    “Frozzing the pants side leads to gibberish:

    massive-pants-term = ish ish ish

    Clearly, unfrozzed pants are necessary.”

    2.1, rule 8: I, and many others, just omit the punctuation entirely. This doesn’t contradict your rule, but it’s an alternative you may want to mention (unless you disagree with it).

    “version 3.0 edition”
    “java” “java” “gj”
    “15th edition edition”
    ICFP ’03 expansion: missing capitals

  6. Cale Gibbard said,

    October 1, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

    I mildly disagree about not nesting subscripts. It’s often the most convenient notation to use when talking about subsequences of an infinite sequence. There may be similar circumstances where the notation just naturally goes that way. Of course, I suppose it’s easy to take it too far, and at a certain point you’d be better off switching to a more plain functional notation. I just found the blanket statement a bit harsh.

  7. Justin Bailey said,

    October 1, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

    Thanks for writing this up – pretty good recommendations.

    Your section on “Boxes and Vertical Lines” should show some examples of good vs. bad tables. A lot of writers seem to think tables in a paper should look like a spreadsheet, with horizontal and vertical lines, when in fact they can look much better. The LaTeX package “booktable” makes it easy to create beautiful tables.

  8. book publisher said,

    June 24, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

    I also mildly disagree about not nesting subscripts.

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