Lest we forget: Typography & LaTeX

Martins Bruveris recently gave an introductory lecture on LaTeX at Brunel University, and the deck was based on my previous LaTeX: More Than Just Academic Papers and Theses slides. (Suffice to say that I’m extremely happy that people are still reading it since I first made it in 2011—I’ve since updated it a bit.)

I particularly like how Martins highlighted how important typography is in retaining the readers’ (ahem supervisors, examiners, reviewers…) interest/attention. That’s so true—I remain certain that I received an award for my paper at a student workshop, partly (or perhaps majorly) because I used LaTeX. One of the panels commented “it’s a very clear, very nice paper—not sure why but it was just very enjoyable to read.”

"Your paper makes no sense, but it's the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on."
Image courtesy of somethingofthatilk

Lest we’ve forgotten at times amid all the exciting new packages in recent years that let us do various cool things in LaTeX, typography is why Knuth created TeX in the beginning, and why some (I’ll acknowledge not all) users prefer LaTeX over word processors. Martins included this quote on typography in his slides:

Typography matters because it helps conserve the most valuable resource you have as a writer—reader attention.
Attention is the reader’s gift to you. That gift is precious. It is finite. And if you fail to be a respectful steward of that gift, it will be revoked.
(Matthew Butterick, Typography for Lawyers)

I would add this quote by Robert Bringhurst in the opening chapter to The Elements of Typographic Style:

Like oratory, music, dance, calligraphy—like anything that lends its grace to language—typography is an art that can be deliberately misused. It is a craft by which the meanings of a text (or its absence of meaning) can be clarified, honored and shared, or knowingly disguised.

and later in Chapter 10:

Writing begins with the making of meaningful marks. That is to say, leaving the traces of meaningful gestures. Typography begins with arranging meaningful marks that are already made. In that respect, the practice of typography is like playing the piano—an instrument quite different from the human voice.

And personally, I do think writings convey the experience knowledge of humankind (I know that sounds a bit pompous, spare me the rod), and deserve to be typeset with ultimate quality for an enjoyable reading experience!

LaTeX: More Than Just Academic Papers and Theses

Update 2 July 2011: OK source code uploaded per request, see link below.

So my slides for the talk on LaTeX during MOSC2011 are done and available for download. (This version without animations etc. to minimise the file size. Updated and corrected 30 June 2011; Thanks to Stefan Kottwitz, Felipe and Per for pointing out some mistakes.)

LaTeX: More Than Just Academic Papers and Theses [slideshare id=8408252&w=425&h=355&fb=0&mw=0&mh=0&sc=no]

As mentioned before, it won’t be a tutorial, rather I plan to give teasers of what LaTeX is capable of beyond the usual journal or conference articles. I have undoubtedly left out many interesting use cases, so please don’t flog me if I haven’t included your favorite package or class! 😉 But do drop me a line and we’ll do a future post on it.

(Update: See this post about the Beamer theme used for the slides.)

Talk at MOSC2011

My proposed talk on LaTeX has just been accepted by the organisers of MOSC2011.

Now I need to actually write the slides!

Anyway, I plan to speak on “LaTeX: More Than Just Academic Papers and Theses”. It won’t be a tutorial, rather I plan to give teasers of what LaTeX is capable of beyond the usual journal or conference articles.

This will also be my first time attending an OSS conference. I do rather feel queasy at the thought of being intimidated by crusty h4x0rs. :-)

UPDATE: The organisers have posted my speaker’s profile.