Quick Tip:
How to Use Reverses & Screens (If You Must)

DM master David Ogilvy preached that reversed type – white letters on black background – reduces readership and should simply not be used in advertising. And we agree with this. They do make reading more difficult and, as such, reduce response.

But there will be times when you’ll have to use a screen or reversed type – usually when your client insists on it.

When this happens, remember to format reverses and screens for maximum readability.

Increase your type size slightly. One-half point is usually enough. Set type in bold. You may also want to increase leading (letter spacing).

Make the screen or background area extend on all four sides of the text (1/8 inch or more) to provide good contrast. Make sure you NEVER print on top of an image of any kind, even if the image has been made into a faint watermark.

Finally, print out your screens and reverses to judge their readability. You cannot make that judgment on a monitor.

The important lesson here is to not focus on making the page "pretty." Just because you know a graphic trick, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Make sure the promotion as a whole is readable … and makes the sale. Your client will appreciate that much more than a fancy spread that does not get read.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: January 3, 2005

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