Wysocki and Bernhardt

These readings felt like a continuation of the study of style I got from Advanced Writing last semester, though put much more succinctly and pointfully than anything we did there. The study of the style of a piece, where style means how a piece was placed on the page in relation to its font, its diagrams and images, and the idea that all these things belonged to certain choices and genres of writing was not a new idea.

What was new was that the Wysocki actually talked about what some of these choices mean. For example, where last semester I learned simply that typefaces mattered depending on the type of text (header or passage) and the discipline in which the piece was from, I didn’t learn what specifically determined the header and passage typefaces. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that fancier fonts did not belong as passage-text, but I certainly didn’t know that consciously, or was able to put words to the styles of typeface and what kinds of text they were used for. This study, along with hierarchy of text (like, which comes on top: bold, caps, italics, etc.?) I think are really important for writers to know, especially the ones who self-publish.

w text

The part about text fitting subject/text and images being analyzed together on 124 reminded me of Hyperbole-and-a-Half’s blog posts on depression, and how her writing matched the image and subject really well. 

Where I work at the Exponent, we have a layout person to do this for us and I know that the same exists for other newspapers and book publishing companies, but were I ever to self-publish (like, for example, this blog), I would need to know how to set up documents for myself.

w o text

This same blog post, also from HaaH, represents a good use of image that conveys meaning without words (the blog posts from Allie Brosh/HaaH are a mix of drawings and larger paragraphs of text). 

One portion of the Wysocki essay that I was somewhat confused by was the analysis of “the page or screen itself” (127). I don’t know that I followed her very well: is this an analysis of the media form, or the viewing mode? Are we analyzing the piece in the context that it belongs to a magazine, or that it actually is in a magazine (as opposed to, say, the same article being published online). Thus, is it an analysis of the media form, or the piece in relation to screens?

The article by Bernhardt felt less useful. The only part I pulled from it that was interesting to me was the laws of gestalt — pragnanz (law of equilibrium), good continuation, and the laws of closure and similarity. Pragnanz was the most obvious of them, the idea that items on a page should be balanced. The next two, continuation and closure, were more cause-and-effect than two separate laws, as closure was the result of continuation being absent. The final law, the law of similarity, was the most delightfully new, but not worldshaking, information presented in the gestalt section.

These things are all things that I think we who have grown up in the internet era have known subconsciously to some effect (though whether or not we chose to use them is a separate thing entirely), and it is in their revealing and naming of truths, and not the presentation of new ideas, that I’m most fascinated by.

I had the fortune of reading this with a graphic design major across the table, who found that us studying text placement and meaning, in her words, “very important.” The value of what graphic designers (and text layout designers) know and use in their day-to-day is something that us writers can take more advantage of, which I think was the main emphasis of (having us read) these articles.


This is Arial. When I asked said friend what her least favorite font is, she said Arial because it’s “an uglier Helvetica,” and that it was also the default font on a lot of programs, so if you care about your work, you should change the font. I can’t say I disagree. 

Finally, all of this, as it seems to always, connected back to the idea of audience. Not only must we as writers consider the audience when writing the actual words of our piece, but also when placing it online and putting it adjacent to images and figures. The intention moves and is split, now, between the words and the visuals, which, I guess, was the hidden point of these articles, that these visuals should be no less carefully wrought than the words surrounding them.


(images from http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html)


  1. jessicahackett · September 19, 2018

    Kylie — the images you included were hilarious and made me laugh out loud. It’s funny you mentioned these readings reminding you of Advanced Writing because I too thought about that class. I remember discussing stye guides and not being fully convinced that there were necessary because I didn’t think consistency was that hard to achieve, even when multiple writers are brought into the mix. The Wysocki article definitely changed my mind. To address your question, I guess I didn’t think twice about “the page or screen itself” part that Wysocki talks about, I just assumed it was the media form but now I’m not so sure. Also I really liked the last part of your post when you say, “The intention moves and is split, now, between the words and the visuals, which, I guess, was the hidden point of these articles, that these visuals should be no less carefully wrought than the words surrounding them.” I completely agree, that was exactly my takeaway from these readings as well. As the world of writing is changing, the visual aspect is becoming equally as important.


  2. austinllewellyn95 · September 20, 2018

    Kylie, thank you for the very colourful and original blog post. I loved the photos you used, especially the one slamming Arial as a font! I am definitely never going to use Arial again! Additionally, I enjoyed your discussion regarding the graphic design major. That was a very relevant incorporation and made me consider my lack of text organization as a hindrance in my writing. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken advanced writing so these articles were my first encounters with the idea of text organization and the value of aesthetics in rhetoric. I disagree with your statement regarding Bernhardt’s article, I personally found the entire analysis of the Wetlands notebook very useful. This is perhaps because you have more experience than me regarding this topic. I also enjoyed your comments about how most people from our generation have grown up in the digital era and understand this topic subconsciously. I had a funny image pop in my head of my father trying to organize/create a blog and I laughed out loud.


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