Bible Typography

Four Major Layout Options for New Foreign Language Bible Translations

I’ve recently done a little volunteer consulting work for a Bible translation organization. Volunteer, as in I’m not sure they wanted it or will do anything with it but they don’t yet have a “no unsolicited opinions” sign up and I couldn’t help myself… Here’s what I sent them. It’s a suggestion for four Bible typography options that might be presented to national church leaders as they prepare to print their new Bible.


I think at least four major options need to be made available to national church leaders, with explanations of pros and cons. More explanation under each point could be given, but below are the basics.

1. Double-column, every verse a paragraph

double-column-every-verse-a-paragraph

  • Pros: This format looks like what most Christians around the world, as I gather from talking to translation consultants, expect a Bible to look like. This is important for successful mass adoption, particularly in places which have had other Bibles (perhaps in colonial or majority languages).
  • Cons: This format is not conducive to good Bible reading; it invites misunderstandings, such as the tendency to lift Proverbs 24:16 out of context.

2. Double-column, verses collected into paragraphs

double-column

  • Pros: Uses page space (and therefore paper) economically; collects verses into meaningful units, aiding smooth reading.
  • Cons: Makes best practices for laying out poetic portions of Scripture convoluted, because hanging indents don’t work well on narrow lines; makes it difficult to lay out languages with long words in an aesthetically pleasing way.

3. Single-column, verses collected into paragraphs

single-column-paragraphed-verses

  • Pros: This balances smooth reading and ease of reference.
  • Cons: “Wastes” paper, particularly in the Psalms and other poetic sections of Scripture.

4. Single-column, verses collected into paragraphs but without verse divisions

single-column-paragraphed-verses

  • Pros: This is the set of conventions Westerners have arrived at over the centuries which, in the collective judgment of compositors everyhwere, is most conducive to good reading. Verse divisions are a comparatively late addition to Bible publishing, and increasingly people around the world can use their phones if they need to know verse references.
  • Cons: No national church that I know of in the world has gone without verse references in their Bibles in living memory.

On balance, I think I’d find myself recommending option 3 most often—because it would take bold leadership and a unique situation to make option 4 possible. I’d love to see what a church might do with option 4, however. And I wouldn’t push a group of national leaders who wanted option 2. Or even option 1. As long as they had a chance to go through the options in this post.

Tech

Cool New Way to Use the Best Word Processor

I love Google Docs. I live by Google Docs. I can’t believe I ever lived with anything else. It strikes just the right balance between simplicity and power. It’s made for writers like me who constantly need to send out documents for edits and comments without causing a massively complicated pile-up of versions and tracked changes. Plus, it’s in the cloud, so my documents are never stuck on one computer. I can access Docs on my MacBook Pro, my iMac, my iPad, and my Nexus 5X (and my wife’s iPad and iPhone in a super pinch!).

I used to love Word, and it is definitely good software for the pre-cloud age. But it isn’t native cloud. I get really frustrated now when someone emails me a Word doc, and I plan to place in future writing contracts a stipulation that all work stay in Google Docs till Mark Ward is completely done with editorial back-and-forth. One book project I worked on was delayed by several weeks, seriously, simply because my request to use Google Docs was politely ignored. Nobody knew which version of the Word doc we were using was the most recent.

Google Docs also has powerful add-on capabilities, only one of which I’m using right now (export to markdown; very handy).

The software just alerted me to something I hadn’t used before: Google Keep integration. I like keeping random notes in Google Keep. Now when I’m working on a book, I can drag notes directly from a Keep pane into my Google Doc:

The only thing I need Google Docs to do that it can’t do—and I only need this occasionally—is keep commenters from seeing each other’s comments. Sometimes I want a bunch of people to look at a document, but I don’t want them knowing what the others are saying. I also don’t like it that the keyboard selection tool doesn’t stop at em dashes when I’m going word by word. Otherwise Google Docs is pretty near perfect.

Out of the abundance of the heart the fingers type.

Worldview

A Profound Contradiction at the Heart of the New Left

Super helpful, from Alan Jacobs, reviewing a book by Roger Scruton:

Scruton gives two reasons for bringing [the subjects of his book on leftism] together here. The first is that they have all identified themselves as leftists…. The second is that “they illustrate an enduring outlook on the world, and one that has been a permanent feature of Western civilization at least since the Enlightenment.” That outlook is composed of two major commitments, or proclaimed commitments anyway: to liberation of individuals from oppressive existing structures, especially political, familial, and religious; and to social justice, usually conceived as requiring the elimination of political and economic systems that create inequality.

Scruton rightly notes that much of the internal tension, at times exploding into hatred, among figures of the New Left arises because these two commitments are pretty clearly not compatible: the more fully people are liberated, the more energetically they will create and sustain various forms of inequality, while equality can only be enforced at the cost of placing strict limits on personal freedom.

Mission

Worldview

Sex and the Christian Vision of the Good

Christianity doesn’t guarantee prosperity of every kind for every individual. Struggles in one’s health, one’s marriage, one’s work, and even one’s faith are par for the Christian course (Jas 1:3).

But, overall, we expect the biblical vision of the good life to produce a better life than the non-Christian vision. And (marital) sexuality is included. The Bible doesn’t deny that sin brings pleasure (Heb 11:25), only that the pleasure lasts or is worth having. Sin is always a denial of love for God and man.

So when I read secular sociologists coming to the same conclusion, I make a note, so that I may be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks me for a reason of the hope that is in me:

Hookup culture, strongly masculinized, demands carelessness, rewards callousness, and punishes kindness. In this scenario, both men and women have the opportunity to have sex, but neither is entirely free to love.

—Lisa Wade, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus

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