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The typesetter's role in modern publishing: what is typesetting?


What do typesetters do, and what part do they play in the modern publishing process?

Typesetting in its simplest form involves laying out text and illustrations to a specified design and producing a finished document ready for printing.

The old image of someone bending over little wooden blocks assembling letters ready for the printing press is thankfully a thing of the past, and the industry is now dominated by computers and purpose built software - the role of the typesetter has moved on. Typesetting is now essentially a computer based occupation, although there are still specialist skills that are important in good quality publications.


It is a typesetter's job to choose the correct fonts, styles, justification, paragraph, line, word and letter spacing; to make sure illustrations meet specified criteria for printing; ensure good presentation and readability; and also to proofread and check for consistency of style. Skills needed include typing, use of word processing software, artwork and page layout software, proofreading and a good eye for detail. The most commonly used industry standards are Microsoft Word for text file preparation, Adobe InDesign for layout and typesetting, along with Adobe Photoshop for picture processing.

Many publishing companies will do their own typesetting in-house, and it may be done as an integral part of the editorial and production processes, while some others may outsource to specialist typesetting service providers.

Typesetting services often include products for web publication, and typesetters are often required to produce coded web files or tagged pdf files, as well as print ready files.

Professional typesetting makes all the difference to the appearance and readablity of a book or publication, and even though computers make the work much simpler these days, it still has a valued role in the publishing process.

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jambo87 on December 15, 2012:

Thanks for the info. I'm hoping to get into the publishing industry once I earn the credentials, so I'm ravenous for any aspects of the publication process.

Voted up for useful!

Imogen French (author) from Southwest England on November 11, 2011:

thanks for reading. Krosch, yes it is a fairly mentally taxing job that requires a lot of concentration, and that can be quite mentally tiring. It's the kind of job where you need to break it up a bit with different tasks, it's not quite as mind-numbing as data entry, but in the long-term it does take its toll.

Short hours and lots of holidays definitely help!

krosch on November 11, 2011:

It does seem like a very detailed concentration filled job. How does it affect you mentally? I mean I have done data entry but after doing it day after day for a few weeks for a work database one year I started to go a little nuts. Is type setting that same way, where you need to be fully engaged mentally but yet its slow going and not real exciting?

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on September 19, 2011:

I was a typesetter for years for a printing company. It was quite a difficult job but I enjoyed it.

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