As I have used HCSB for personal devotions and our congregation is using it in the bulletin for Sunday readings, it has proven to be an acceptable translation. However, I have been disappointed with the layout issue in poetry.
It seems that there are really two problems. 1) with a double column format, the width of the columns is necessarily small. Thus, not many words can be put on the same line. Obviously typeface choice, size, and weight of the fonts make a difference. It would seem that especially in poetry sections, a single column format would be better.
2) The second problem is actually more troublesome. Indentation in HCSB is inconsistent and does not help the reader understand the text or even read the text. Here is a sample from Zechariah 10:6-7.
Notice that the entire v. 6 and the first two lines of vs. 7 are all left aligned, with no indentation. The double column format does not help at all in this case. Also, the lines are very inconsistent with regard to length. That combination leaves the reader with no visual clue as to the relationship between the main verbs/nouns and subordinate thoughts.
For instance, in v. 6 what is the relationship (and emphasis) between strengthen, deliver, restore, have compassion? Visually there is no clue. In v. 7, would it not make more sense in the second and third lines to read like this?
and their hearts will be glad
as if with wine.
I have found that such a layout and formatting issue makes for much harder oral reading. But even in devotional reading I find it tiring; I have to go back and reread the text to see if I understand the thought pattern and structure.
I would strongly recommend that the HCSB and editorial staff look again at this problem of double column format and especially line indentation and relationship of patterns of thought. At best it can lead to confusion, at worst it can lead to a wrong “reading” with wrong emphasis because there are no clues how to relate that.
(I should note that other double column translations do not have as much of a problem because they employ indentation and better line breaks.)