Why you shouldn't use justified text on the web

By Michael Scruse
Published April 6th, 2021
We’ve all seen it, and many of us would have clicked that “Justify Text” button in Word, but what is justified text? And why shouldn't you use it on the web?
Why you shouldn't use justified text on the web

Justified text is making both the left and right edges of the text block flush – nicely lined up. This is achieved by adding additional spacing between words. See the example below:

An example of justified text on the web, and how irregular the word spacings can become.

As you can see both edges of the text are nicely laid out but note some of the spacing between words is a bit too large. Why is this?

Tools used by desktop publishers to produce print layouts have a bunch of tools and smarts that will use a mixture of spacing and hyphenation to achieve the best layout, tools and smarts that HTML, CSS and web browsers don’t have.

Left aligned text is easier to read

Even though many designers like justified text for its uniformity, blocks of text that are left aligned are actually easier to read.

When you read you subconsciously scan the block of text for the end of a line and the beginning of the next, and when both ends are justified this is harder to do. Throw in the typically larger spaces between words and reading gets even harder.

This is then made even worse on a larger screen device (such as a tablet, laptop or desktop computer) that has very long lines - the eye needs to work really hard to ensure it remains on the correct line with such inconsistent word spacings.

Do we need to talk about accessibility and how justified text is very difficult for those with vision issues or dyslexia to read? This in itself is enough reason not to use justified text.

But newspapers use it

Yes, this is correct, most print publications use justified text, but as alluded to earlier desktop publishers use a mixture of skill and specialist publishing and set-out software to make sure that the spacing is correct, hyphenation is used appropriately, and the text is pleasing to read.

That said, have you noticed that those print publications on the web do not use justified text?

So when you’re next updating the content on your website check to see if you’re using justified text, and if you are perhaps consider changing it to left justified - it will do wonders for the readability of your content.

Michael Scruse
Michael Scruse

Michael brings his technical, web and sales expertise to every project, backed by almost 30 years’ experience in the IT industry.

In 2018, Michael became one of Australia’s first Certified Joomla Administrators.

Michael is also a qualified chef, although cooking is now in a domestic kitchen. Michael is a bit of a history buff and is currently researching his own family history.