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What do you folks use as a general rule of thumb for flowing text around embedded images? I know everyone's got different preferences in addition to standard rules; is there any time when you will place an image in line with text (i.e., with no text flow on either side) instead of allowing text to flow on one side or the other?

Obviously there are times when you're going to want the image apart from the text flow for design purposes. The examples I've run into recently involve laying out HTML newsletters (which are fairly narrow - less than 600 px so they fit into the crappy little window Outlook gives you, and then it's split further into a 2/3 + 1/3 vertical arrangement) and a brochure laid out with similar narrow vertical columns. With a vertical area this narrow it's sometimes difficult to get recognizable images (none are larger than 250 px wide) and text without it looking like you're getting "crumbs" of text.

Addendum: I know there are, in fact, times when you'd want the opposite - if I were laying out one of E.E. Cummings' poems alongside a series of images, for instance, I would probably have zero issues with fragments of text alongside images since that could create a different flow / feel. This question doesn't have to do with that - I'm looking for other folks' preferences with more vanilla layout - magazine layouts with large images, web pages with narrow columns, etc.

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In my modest experience, in official documents, where readability is essential and space is not an issue, images are in line with text and with a caption and certain spacing. Blogs and news in general are the first example that comes to me about images embedded in text. –  clabacchio Feb 29 '12 at 13:28
    
Right - in official documents (and even submissions to some journals) the rules are right there. I'm looking for more "this is what I've found works for me" or "I had a design professor who said you should have x number of characters or y percent of space to flow text around". –  lawndartcatcher Feb 29 '12 at 13:36
    
I think that, technically, inline with text without text wrap is not really inline. Unless you argue that it is inline with null text. –  horatio Feb 29 '12 at 14:55
    
@horatio - true. And yet for some odd reason images placed in MS Word with no text wrap are labled "in line with text". Yet another reason I don't like laying anything out in MS Word. But for some reason the phrase stuck in my head this morning. –  lawndartcatcher Feb 29 '12 at 16:47
    
They probably mean inline like lined up or the serial sense of the word. –  horatio Feb 29 '12 at 17:17

4 Answers 4

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The choice depends on the context, although I can't think of a situation where putting an image strictly inline (where the height of the image controls the leading of the line) looks satisfactory.

If the image is very detailed and it's important to show it in all its glory, then you should make it full width and break the text at a paragraph with the image and caption following.

enter image description here

Where the image is not full width, the judgment call comes in how much text will sit beside it, and whether the text is justified. Less than about 30 to 35 characters generally looks awful justified, especially in HTML where the only justification option is word spacing, which tends to leave gigantic gaps (you can see lots of examples in newspaper columns)...

enter image description here

...but can look okay if it's ragged right.

enter image description here

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What do you folks use as a general rule of thumb for flowing text around embedded images?

Generally, it's "Does this look good?"

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I create a great many direct mail sales pieces. Almost always there will be wraps on several pages. My general rule of thumb regarding a full wrap or text break is clarity and importance of the object being wrapped.

If I need to place a graphic which is imperative to the text, I'll break the text rather than wrap the text. This encourages the reader to stop, notice the image, then continue reading.

I use wraps to break up pages of text as a whole... a way to prevent the entire page appearing simply full of text. But anything actually being wrapped is not imperative to the story/text in most cases.

For me, wrapped objects are used to catch the eye as a reader skims. Text breaks catch the eye while skimming AND while actually reading.

Just my 2¢.

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Clarity is the best option. If the image is especially obvious, then you can break it out from the text and span columns. If you need to qualify it or limit in some way, then context is important to the decision, but a caption or simply heading the particular article is the first choice.

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