How can non-designers learn to approve a print layout?

I am not a designer, I am a scientist. I write papers in Word or LaTeX, the conference organisers give me a template with fonts, rules like “Caption for figures go below the figure, captions for tables go below the table”, etc. I submit a paper in this template, which is reviewed. If it is accepted, I submit the paper (minor corrections are allowed) to the proceedings publishers as a pdf file. The submission system does some very crude automated checking (fonts embedded, page number not over limit) before accepting the file. At some point, a human looks over the file and mails me if there are any problems found. And for me, there are always problems.

I am not a tidy person. Not only don’t I righten the proverbial misaligned picture, I don’t even notice there’s a problem with it. So I don’t catch the cosmetic errors with the layout of my files. I look only for the very big things, like whether there is half a page of blank space, and whether the two columns in the ACM layout align on the last page. If there are none, I submit. And then always get requests to repair things like tables running 1 mm into the margins, or the bottom quarter of a line hidden behind a figure. This wastes quite a lot of time for both me and the publisher who waits for me.

Obviously, I need to learn how to proof-look (is there a real word for that?) my layouts better, but I don’t know where to start. Is there something like a check list which can teach me what to look for? Can you point me to a good one? I guess there are thousands of things which can go wrong, but I am probably falling into the most common newbie traps, so even the simplest list of known “problem areas” will be an improvement. If there are some general guidelines on how to look, or tricks, or even an easy tool which can take my pdf and point out inconsistencies (but please no heavy-weight design package with built-in checking), I’d be happy to hear about these too.

Edit: I do compose the text with the final layout. My professor insists on this for several reasons, chiefly because there is a hard upper limit on the number of pages and we must judge the length of each chapter and sub-chapter at each revision (2-3 revisions per week) to be sure the final text will fit. Besides, I make many figures and almost all tables directly in Word. Composing the content without the final formatting would be very inefficient in this case.


You keep asking for a checklist, so let me start one for you. I’ll even make this a wiki so everyone else can pile on.

  • Headlines are in the correct font and
  • Type is in the correct font and size.
  • No images or tables violate the margins.
  • No extra return between headline and
  • No half page of blank space.
  • Words are not hyphenated over a page
  • Look at the top, left, right, and
    bottom margins of every image or
    table which breaks the flow of text.
    Is any text cut off? Is any text IN
    the image or text cut off or
  • Does every image or table have a
  • Is there a header? is it correctly
  • Is there a footer? is it correctly
  • Check for fraction glyphs to confirm
    they are fractions and not corrupted
    dingbats. (you may have to skim your
    text throughout unless you made notes
    where they are.)

jump in when you know the words, gang.

Source : Link , Question Author : rumtscho , Answer Author :

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