Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding Leading.

Understanding Leading

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 28, 2018)

3

Leading is a typographical term referring to the vertical space from the same point on one line to the same point on the next, within the same paragraph. Typically, this distance is measured from baseline to baseline, where the baseline is the reference line on which your characters rest.

Leading is typically measured in points. In Word, leading is referred to as Line Spacing, although this is not technically correct. Line spacing is more comprehensive, implying less exacting terms or measurements than required by traditional typesetting.

When you want to specify your leading, you should follow an old typographical convention that states that line leading should be 120% of the point size of your font. Thus, according to this rule, if the font you are using is 10-point Arial, then your line leading should be 12 points. In typographical terms, this is referred to as 10/12 Arial (pronounced "10 on 12 Arial"). Likewise, if you are using 28-point Courier, then your leading should be 33.6 points. You can round this to 34 points, even though Word will accept fractional point sizes.

There are several methods Word can use for leading. Typically, the default leading type (as specified in the Line Spacing field of the Paragraph dialog box) is Auto. This means that line leading will be adjusted, automatically, based on the largest font size or element on each individual line. Word does this by applying the 120% rule to the largest font size or element on the line.

The problem with Auto leading is that it can leave your paragraphs looking uneven and choppy, particularly if you mix fonts and point sizes within the same paragraph. To overcome this, always specify that Line Spacing should be Exactly, and then set a point size in the At box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13213) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Leading.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Creating Tables with Specific Column Widths

Create a table and Word figures out column widths by dividing the horizontal space by the number of columns you want in ...

Discover More

Aligning Cells when Importing from CSV

When you import information from a CSV text file, Excel formats the data according to its default settings. Wouldn't it ...

Discover More

Selecting Tabs in Dialog Boxes

Dialog boxes normally present information in a series of tabs. If you want to move from tab to tab without taking your ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Characters in the Margin Next to Paragraphs

Laying out a document can be, at times, a challenge. This is particularly the case when you need some special document ...

Discover More

Indenting a Paragraph

Normally your text extends from the left margin all the way to the right. If you need to indent a paragraph of your text, ...

Discover More

Extending a Paragraph into the Left Margin

Word allows you to format a paragraph so that it extends into the left margin of the document. This is done by setting a ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 - 1?

2018-10-16 14:50:38

Bob Hamilton

1. Word sucks at Leading adjustment
2. To adjust leading in the case where you have a very large font and Word puts WAAYYY too much white space above and below it do the following:
a. In Paragraph Settings set the Line Spacing to Exactly nnn pt, where nnn is found by trial and error to be a good number. For reference, with a 400pt Times New Roman capital "E", I used 300pt.
b. In Font Settings, under Character Spacing, set Position to Lowered and By: ppp, where ppp is found by trial and error. For reference, with the above 400pt Times New Roman capital "E", line spacing set to 300pt, I lowered by 50pt and that worked well.
Cheers!
Bob


2016-04-13 11:51:38

Paul Franklin Stregevsky

Same here, merryjoe. I thought, "Maybe Word offers 'Auto' only when a paragraph contains two or more font sizes." But no; I just tried it.


2016-04-12 21:11:13

merryjoe

In our version of Word 2010, there is no Auto choice in the Line Spacing field of the Paragraph dialog box. Only choices in the drop-down are "Single, 1.5 lines, Double, At least, Exactly, Multiple". Did Word remove the Auto choice?

There's an Auto choice for Space Before and Space After, but those don't really have to do with Leading within a paragraph, right?


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.