Reducing Leading without Cutting Off Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 10, 2019)

2

Michael is formatting text into a three-column article. He wants to reduce the line spacing (leading) to make it look more "newspaper column-like." He is using an 11-pt font, but when he sets the line spacing "exactly" at anything less than 12-pt, the printer chops off the lower portions of the character descenders. Michael wants line spacing less than 12-pt but wonders if it is possible.

How characters are actually placed on paper is dependent on two things—the way the font was designed, and the way the printer's internal software translates the font for printing.

When a font is designed, at a minimum each character is designed within what can be viewed as a "box" which essentially defines the width and height of the character. The width indicates how close, by default, the characters can get to each other horizontally. The height indicates how far above and below the baseline the character extends vertically. Again, this "box" is defined individually for each character in the font.

Obviously, there will be "whitespace" inside each character's box, as the stroke of each character doesn't fill the entire rectangular box. You can use software to adjust the horizontal spacing of the characters; this spacing is called kerning. You can also use software to adjust the inter-line spacing of the characters; this is called leading. (In Word, Microsoft chose to refer to this as line spacing instead of leading.)

Michael wants to adjust the line spacing in his paragraphs to the same or less than the specified size of the font he is using. This means that with an 11-pt font, he wants the line spacing to be 11-pt or less. He notes that anything less than 12-pt line spacing causes the descenders of the characters to be cut off. Test has shown that if you decrease the line spacing far enough, you should also start to see the ascenders (the extensions of tall letters, such as the l, k, h, and f characters) be cut off.

You can minimize this a bit by remembering that you can specify line spacing in less than full-point increments. When testing, I found that setting the line spacing to 11.5-pt resulting in descenders not being cut off but setting it to 11.25-pt would exhibit some cutting.

How the cutting-off exhibits itself will depend, as mentioned, on the way in which the character boxes are defined for the font. It also depends on how the printer's software handles the transparency of the "whitespace" within the character box. Some printers handle that transparency quite well, while others do not.

Because there are only two variables at play in the way that fonts are rendered (again, the design of the font and the software in the printer), you may be able to get different results in relation to clipping by simply changing which fonts you use and the printer to which you output your document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5996) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is three minus 2?

2019-03-10 11:17:00

Allen

Thanks for the eagle eye, Gerald. I've updated that typo.

-Allen


2019-03-09 14:46:31

Gerald Feldman

In the fourth paragraph of your tip titled "Reducing Leading without Cutting Off Text " you said, "Obviously, there will be "whitespace" inside each character's box, as the stroke of each character doesn't fill the entire rectangular box. You can use software to adjust the horizontal spacing of the characters; this spacing is called kerning. You can also use software to adjust the inter-line spacing of the characters; this is called leading. (In Word, Microsoft chose to refer to this as line spacing instead of kerning.)"

Shouldn't the last word of this paragraph be "leading"?

Gerald Feldman


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