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Margins – When is it Better to Color Inside the Lines?

20 November 2019

Publishing is easier than ever, these days. But has that relative ease had an adverse impact on the finished product?

I recently read of a 1,000 page book, sent to a reviewer before publication, for which the publisher had made the decision to run the text almost all the way to the edges of the page. This saved maybe 20 or 30 pages of book length – but effectively eliminated the margins.

The reviewer found the book almost impossible to read. The pages looked cramped, the text seemed tense, uncomfortable, even amateurish.

Perhaps this willingness to play fast and loose with margins goes hand in hand with our modern zeal to “think outside the box,” to “color outside the lines.”

But, sometimes, maybe we need to stay within box or the lines, for clarity. For more effective and comfortable communication with others. Paintings are displayed in frames. Pages of text – whether in a book or an electronic document – have had margins since before Gutenberg invented the printing press. Maybe the wheel doesn’t need reinventing.

This is not to say that creative, transformative thinking cannot take us outside the box and the lines – of course it can, and when true inspiration takes us there, we are wise to follow. But this works only when one breaks the rules with purpose and intent. And that, in turn, works best when one knows the rules and the boundaries like the back of one’s hand.

Among painters, Jackson Pollack eschewed the frame entirely – but he knew the rules, and broke them – knowledgeably – for his own purpose, and the effect he intended.

When have you found it best to stay within the margins, and when have you found moving outside them worked best? How do you tell?

Please click here to email me directly – I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Until next Wednesday – have a great week!



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