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I've written a 5,000 word essay on a topic of my choosing.

While reading through my writing, my teacher suggested I justify my text, as opposed to left-aligning it, as this looks neater.

I agree, finding it looks much better; however, after looking around, many people stated that the justification of text makes it much harder to read. Also, most of the sources I consulted, as part of research, used left-aligned text.

Is it just a subjective matter, or is there a standard?

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    While Lighthouse Keeper answered your question from the perspective of academia, you may want to ask on Graphic Design the arguably more interesting question: “Is there any evidence that justification or left-aligned is easier to read (or does it depend on the application)?”
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 19, 2017 at 20:58
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    Note that the answer might also be software-dependent -- there are several word-wrapping algorithms, and the greedy algorithm gives uglier lines than the one introduced by Knuth for Tex. So it is well possible that the answer is Latex-justified text > left-aligned text > MS Word-justified. Mar 19, 2017 at 22:27
  • Apparently this professor does not find justified text harder to read. // If you give the essay to someone else, you can leave it ragged. I like ragged better too, but for a book it needs to be justified.... FYI.) Mar 20, 2017 at 5:38
  • I guess there's a standard that differs between fields (as your sources had left-aligned text). The ten close-at-hand molecular biology papers and three books I just consulted all had justified text. I thought in general the idea was that snippets of text are left aligned and books (and perhaps longer articles) are justified.
    – VonBeche
    Apr 3, 2017 at 15:05
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    @FedericoPoloni And some LaTeX packages, like microtype, make the justification look even nicer (in my opinion), though that does restrict you to pdflatex if you want the full feature set.
    – JAB
    Apr 5, 2017 at 1:32

1 Answer 1

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Look for the specification and implement it.

In your particular case, your teacher specified that she prefers justifying, so you should act accordingly, since she is the one who will grade your essay.

Later in your academic career, you may come into situations where the format is specified by an institution rather than an individual person, for example, a journal or a funding agency.

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    Indeed. In such cases, don't even take the time to get an expert opinion, because the opinion of a single person or small committee is all that matters. :) On the other hand, yes, "justified" text, if it's done clumsily, can be harder to read, and weirder on the page, due to bad hyphenation choices, leading to bizarre inter-word spacing, etc. That is, there are better and worse algorithms for line breaks, indeed. But, first, do what "your boss" tells you, with regard to such essentially irrelevant things... :) Sep 27, 2021 at 22:00

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