Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 25, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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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 fewer 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. In some versions of Word, the default leading type (as specified in the Line Spacing field of the Paragraph dialog box) is Auto. In later versions of Word, however, the Auto setting has been removed. In these versions the default will be either Multiple or Single. Regardless of the default setting, 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 the default leading settings is that they 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, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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. ...

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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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 seven more than 9?

2023-11-25 11:54:15

Tony D

I prefer to use Exactly, but when I insert or paste an image, I've found that I need to change the line spacing above/below the image or else it gets hidden behind the text.


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