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

Changing the Color Inside a Shape

Adding a shape to your workbook is easy. If you want to fill the shape with a color, you'll want to follow the ...

Discover More

Choosing an Easy Exterior Wood Stain

One of the finishing touches that need to be applied to any wood project is, well, the finish. Wood stain is a natural ...

Discover More

Inserting a Multi-Page PDF File in a Word Document

Over the decades, Word has always had a rather tenuous relationship with PDF files. Echoes and evidences of this tenuous ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Adding a Border around Multiple Paragraphs

Word makes it very easy to apply formatting to the paragraphs in your documents. Some of that formatting may be ...

Discover More

Copying Paragraph Formatting with the Mouse

When you get one paragraph formatted just the way you want, you might want to copy that formatting so it can be applied ...

Discover More

Hanging Indents in Wrapped Text

If you use hanging indents for some of your paragraphs, you may wonder why they don't look right when they wrap on the ...

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 nine minus 4?

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.