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Re: track kerning

Track kerning is the wretched practice of distorting both
the set width and the very shape of a letter to get an easy
fit in the line.  It's bad enough when the letterspacing
is so reduced that combinations like vi produce accidental
ligatures, but publications that indulge in it rarely stop
there.  Perhaps the worst example is the US weekly "The
New Yorker'" a magazine which once had standards.  The New
Yorker has no shame about setting a line that is effectively
in 33 percent condensed type right after a line that is
set in letterspaced 20 percent extended type.  This is
often caused by the fact that the New Yorker doesn't know
how to hyphenate.  Until recently, I thought that
Atlantic Monthly was proof against the blandishments of
tracking seducers, but it is beginning to show up there too.

The excuse would be given that the format is narrow columns
and there is a deadline onproduction.  I look at the narrow
justified columns of the New York Times, and if they are
using tracking at all, it must be in such infinitesimal
amounts that my old eyes can't see it.  The Economist
which cared enough to design its own font occasionally
drops in a Verrrry loose line, but I have not been able
to see any overt use of tracking.  Some of their columnar
formats are even narrower than those of the New Yorker.  

In short, tracking seems to be the resource of people
who just don't really give a damn any more.  Goudy
used to dismiss letterspacers in a quaintly Scottish
way as "sheep stealers."  (Some of my more remote ancestors
probably indulged in sheep stealing, though it was
more a lowland than a highland practice---the valley sheep
are fatter.)  I wonder what he would have said about
people who distort his faces almost beyond recognition.

Email:  mackay@cs.washington.edu		Pierre A. MacKay
Smail:  Department of Classics			Emeritus Druid for
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