[texhax] learning tex vs latex

Pierre MacKay pierre.mackay at comcast.net
Fri Oct 30 18:49:32 CET 2009

On 10/30/2009 05:29 AM, Adam Fenn wrote:
> Philip Taylor wrote:
> > They will also almost
> > certainly follow Knuth's style of coding which (sadly) does
> > almost nothing to separate form from content (\bigskip and
> > friends are really evil, IMHO).
> Could you elaborate upon this for a self-taught plain TeXer?
One of the signs of careful composition, whose absence is really painful 
in most LaTeX documents I have seen---painfuleven to those who are 
unaware of the tradition---is the balancing of General Text baselines 
across multicolumn text, across a spread and, in the case of even 
slightly transparent paper, on both sides of a folio.  (I am working on 
a 15th century manuscript that appears to have been personally written 
by Cardinal Bessarion, and it is remarkable how careful he is to match 
the baselines of verso text with those on the recto side.

If you introduce \bigskip, or any other of the skips that includes 
stretchable glue to headers or inserts, you have effectively ensured 
that baselines will never match across multi-column text, spreads or on 
back-to-back recto-verso pairs.

Stretchable vertical glue (which traditionalists will deplore as 
"carding" or even more despicable, "feathering") has some legitimate 
uses, and it is a relief to have the option when it is really needed, 
but it has to be used rarely, and usually with apologies and promises 
not to do it again.

Pierre MacKay
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