Visual Texts: Format and the Evolution of English Accounting Texts, 1100–1700
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Emphasis on page design, as an aid to visual accessibility, did not receive attention in modern technical writing until the 1970s. However, accounting documents and instructional texts utilized format and document design strategies as early as the twelfth century to enhance the organization of quantitative data and linear bookkeeping entries. Format in text was used to reflect the arrangement used in oral accounting practices and to produce uniform documents. Thus, format was integral to the rise of pragmatic literacy of the commercial reader. During the Renaissance, these early format strategies received impetus from Ramist method. The result was design strategies that attempted to capture the rigid principles of organization fundamental to commercial accounting. These early accounting documents also illustrate the plain style that would become the focus of the later decades of the seventeenth century. Clarity in language paralleled clarity in page design for the sole purpose of eliminating ambiguity on the page and on the sentence level. Plain style was thus nurtured by financial forces long before the advent of natural science.
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