by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 30, 2020)
Dann wants to position a floating image to the right of a left-aligned level-1 heading so that the tops of both the heading and image are level vertically. He knows how to do the positioning; he does it all the time. However, the image always sits ever-so-slightly higher than the heading text. There is no padding above the heading, and there are no extra pixels at the top of the image. He wants them absolutely level but can find no way to do this.
Vertical spacing can be a bit confusing, to be sure. This is especially true when you are trying to align the top of an image with the top of a line of text. The reason that it can be confusing is because there are so many variables that play into the mix. There are four primary variables, however, that you need to pay attention to:
If any of these items are out of kilter, it can affect the vertical alignment between the image and the text. It is this last item—line spacing—that I suspect is the culprit in Dann's case. When you set a paragraph for single spacing (in the Paragraph dialog box), Word automatically assumes you want your line spacing at 120% of your text height. Thus, if your text is 10 pt., then single-spacing would result in 12 pt. line spacing. In other words, there is an automatic 2 points added above the text. It is the top of this 12-pt. line to which Word aligns the image.
The only way to get around this is, in the Paragraph dialog box, to set the Line Spacing setting to Exactly and make sure to enter a measurement equal to the height of your font. This should close up most of the vertical space that is bothersome.
That being said, understand that line spacing can be a bit messy, as each typeface can have its own "internal" whitespace. This is analogous to having extra pixels at the top of an image. The effect is that the image looks like it sits lower, vertically, than it actually does. With a font, there could be additional whitespace at the top of the characters that makes it look like they sit lower on the page than they do. (For instance, a 10 pt. typeface may actually only consume 9 pt. of vertical height, with an extra point of whitespace above the characters.)
The bottom line is that for any given typeface, you may have to play with your line spacing just a bit to get the exact vertical alignment you want. It is not unusual, for instance, when using a 14 pt. typeface to set the line spacing at 12 pt. to get the desired vertical positioning.
If you still cannot get your vertical positioning exactly as you want it, you might try placing your heading and your image into a two-column table, single-row table. (Heading in the left column and image in the right.) This should give you the ability to more precisely adjust the vertical relationship between the two elements.
Failing that, and particularly if you need to do this type of alignment for many documents, you may want to consider doing your page layout in a program specifically designed for that type of activity. For instance, InDesign provides you with a variety of tools that can give you greater control over positioning than you ever could do with Word.
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