On Arabic Justification

Justified setting is one of the most common configurations of a block of text. It is found across different cultures, writing systems, and languages. Yet whilst the concept of equalising the width of lines in a column to achieve a rectangular block is shared, the techniques that are employed towards this end are diverse. This paper discusses the justification of Arabic text. It lays out the methods that evolved in manuscript practice and reflects on their interpretation in typography. It casts a spotlight on the origins of the typographic justification techniques in Europe and compares them in three case studies to examples from the nineteenth century Middle East. A sketch contextualises how Arabic justification changed under the influence of technology and prepares the ground for a review of the provisions found in current typographic environments. The paper then presents the state-of-the-art of digital text layout for Arabic and queries its suitability. The argument concludes with recommendations of best practice aimed at toolmakers and designers of Arabic documents.

On Arabic Justification

Justified setting is one of the most common configurations of a block of text. It is found across different cultures, writing systems, and languages. Yet whilst the concept of equalising the width of lines in a column to achieve a rectangular block is shared, the techniques that are employed towards this end are diverse. This paper discusses the justification of Arabic text. It lays out the methods that evolved in manuscript practice and reflects on their interpretation in typography. It casts a spotlight on the origins of the typographic justification techniques in Europe and compares them in three case studies to examples from the nineteenth century Middle East. A sketch contextualises how Arabic justification changed under the influence of technology and prepares the ground for a review of the provisions found in current typographic environments. The paper then presents the state-of-the-art of digital text layout for Arabic and queries its suitability. The argument concludes with recommendations of best practice aimed at toolmakers and designers of Arabic documents.