I found this ‘commitment statement’ printed on the wall of a management office, and thought it would be a good real-world example for this centered text topic. Let’s have a look:
This is a classic case of simply letting text fall where the (arbitrary) margins dictate. The basic approach is to just fill the space: “Let’s see, I’ve typed this out in Word, the wall is [this] wide, I’ll tell the signage people to make it [this] big.” It seems reasonable enough, but it doesn’t consider the context or some best practices of layout and design.
Centered text, properly, and with purpose
Here’s the way it probably should look:
(This is another case where you probably want to use the “soft return” technique.)
I see this in PowerPoint headers, and Word footers often as well: an isolated sentence simply run across the page with no regard for the (visual) context and balance.
Balancing centered text in a paragraph
Another example where this comes in to play is when a whole paragraph is centered. Frankly, this is rarely a good idea, so if you’re tempted to do this just because you think left-justified is too boring, or because you have a paragraph (or more!) that you want in the center, it is actually harder to read. The example below is not a great layout, and there are other ways to improve it, but just balancing the text in the space helps a lot.
So, when it comes to centered text, whether centering a single sentence or a paragraph, consider the context, and rather than letting the space determine the form, let the form define how it fills the space.