The Typehead Chronicles: Horizontal Space
      Of Thomas Christensen, ABCedminded Typesetter  

homeward bound


Spacing Out

Horizontal space in typography has traditionally been measured in ems. An em space is equal to the size of the type (an em of 12 point type is 12 points). An en is half of an em. (In Quark, an em space is the size of two o's, unless you check "use traditional em space" box in Preferences.) Spacing of one-third of an em is common between words, but some conscientious typesetters prefer tighter spacing, around a quarter of an em.

In justified text, the word spacing will vary to an increasing amount as measure (column width) diminishes. It is sometimes says that the ideal maximum variation will be between a quarter en (called a "thin space") and a full en (half the type size), but that range will be too great for some. In any case, the goal is text with as little variation in word spacing as possible; such text is called "evenly colored."

Bold or geometric faces generally need more word space. Large type can sizes can usually be tightened.

For God's sake, do not put two spaces after a period!

"In the nineteenth century, which was a dark and inflationary age in typography and type design, many compositors were encouraged to stuff extra space between sentences. Generations of twentieth-century typists were then taught to do the same, by hitting the spacebar twice after every period. Your typing as well as your typesetting will benefit from unlearning this quaint Victorian habit" (Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style).

Similarly, ignore the Chicago Manual of Style, or your copy editor who follows it, and set Initials tight: T.W. Christensen.

In general, letterspace capitals and small capitals. A quarter em is a good amount (Quark would call this 25% spacing).

Kerning is adjusting the space between pairs of letters. Many headlines require kerning. Most good fonts come defined with kerning pairs. It is good to evaluate the fonts and add or adjust kerning pairs in your typesetting program.






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