Tips for self-publishers: Typography 103 — Kerning and Spacing

If you look back at the advanced font tab in Microsoft Word, there’s an entry there for Kerning. This isn’t specific to OpenType fonts and is something you should keep an eye on with your titles (for example, chapter headings, book and part title pages). Kerning refers to moving characters closer together to avoid unnecessary gaps. It’s generally a good thing to have kerning set on for headings and titles. For example if you have a capital W followed by a lower case ‘a’, where should the ‘a’ start? With a kerned font the ‘a’ will shelter somewhat under the ‘W’, which looks neater and more professional. With Word up to and including Word 2013, there is no control to fine tune kerning: it is either on or off.

Text_6_Kern_off

Text_5_Kern_on

Back in the advanced font tab, you will see a spacing option. This simply places a gap between characters if expanded or reduces spacing if condensed. Best used for special effects and titles, I’ve given expanded examples below for an idea of how chapter headings might look. I’ve set the first example to have normal spacing, expanded 3 points, and expanded 9 points.

Text_7_Spacing_1

You can also have different settings for each character within the same paragraph. For example:

Text_8_Spacing_2

Here I’ve added a manual line feed between the two lines (Shift + Enter). The first line has normal spacing and the second 6pt expanded, except for the final letter (‘Y’) which has normal spacing (because otherwise the subtitle would be offset from the right-hand margin).

Of course, you could achieve an expanded effect by adding space characters, but if you’re doing this frequently (e.g. with chapter headings) then it is easier and more consistent to apply and change if you are setting expanded characters through a heading style rather than direct formatting.

Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook:  amazon.com |  amazon.co.uk

Paperback   amazon.com |  amazon.co.uk

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About Tim C. Taylor

Science fiction publisher and author of the bestselling Human Legion series. I live with my wife and young family in an English village. I am currently writing full time, when I'm not roped into building Lego.
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