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The PC is Not a Typewriter Book Review

by Robin Williams

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The PC is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams

The PC is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams

Cover shot courtesy PriceGrabber

Bottom Line

This is a book I’ve had and used for years, and I realized that it is one that web designers can benefit from reading as well. Don’t be dismayed by its size—92 pages may seem short, but Robin has packed in more about typography in 92 pages than most design books pack into several hundred.


  • Publisher: Peachpit Press
  • Price: $16.99
  • Length: 92-pages
  • Released: ©1992
  • Chapter 1 One space between sentences
  • Chapter 2 Quotation marks
  • Chapter 3 Apostrophes
  • Chapter 4 Dashes
  • Chapter 5 Special characters
  • Chapter 6 Accent marks
  • Chapter 7 Underlining
  • Chapter 8 Capitals
  • Chapter 9 Kerning
  • Chapter 10 Tabs & Indents
  • Chapter 11 Widows & Orphans
  • Chapter 12 Hyphenation & line breaks
  • Chapter 13 Leading, or linespace
  • Chapter 14 Justified text
  • Chapter 15 Hanging the punctuation
  • Chapter 16 Serif and sans serif fonts
  • Chapter 17 Combining typefaces
  • Chapter 18 Miscellaneous
  • Chapter 19 Quiz
  • Appendices for typography on various computers and software
  • And a checklist of all the guidelines to use every time you post a new document

Jennifer Kyrnin’s Review of The PC is Not a Typewriter

I got this book back in the 90s when I first got interested in design, and it was a revelation. Some of it was information that I had been taught differently in my typing classes in High School, and some of it was completely new to me, but all of it was useful information.

Some of the advice is going to be contrary to what you’ve been taught. For example, the first chapter. Many of you have expressed in no uncertain terms that you won’t use just one space after a period. In fact, some people have said that they use characters like the non-breaking space to force double spaces after a period. But give the book a chance before dismissing it outright. Even if you don’t agree with everything, there is a lot in this book that can help you improve your web pages.

There are so many aspects of typography that are finally controllable by web designers using CSS. And you can do everything that is mentioned in this book using CSS, special characters, or HTML. It’s frustrating to me how many of these things are still difficult to do or require hacks to achieve, but for the most part, everything that Robin discusses in this book can be done on websites. And web designers who want to can make their sites as typographically beautiful as they are beautiful in layout and design.

The Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge in using this book is that it’s not written for web designers at all. While it has information in the appendices for handling typography in programs like Word and desktop publishing software and even a chapter on special characters, there is nothing about how these work on web pages.

So you should treat this book as information about typography first and figure out how to apply it to your web pages second. Luckily I have a lot of information on my site to help.

Once You’re Done Reading

Here are some specific articles from my site about the topics covered in this book:

This review was based on my personal copy of the book. For more information read our Ethics Policy.

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