Getting Line and Paragraph Spacing Just Right in Your Document

Line and paragraph spacing can make a lot of difference to the look of a document, yet it’s often overlooked. In this post, I share some really simple tips on spacing and how to get it right.

The standard spacing strategy is to use a decreasing amount of space as you move down the document.

The space between the title block and the text that follows should be the greatest: that sets the title apart from the rest of the document. The space between a section heading and the body text that follows it should be more than the space between the lines of text that after the heading. Following this simple spacing rule will make the document easy for your readers to follow.

Spacing and Leading

Leading

You’ll notice that I’ve included “leading” information in the illustration above. The term comes from the early days of printing when metal type was set by hand and different sized lead spacers were used. Fortunately, today we can adjust spacing more easily.

Leading in InDesign

To adjust the leading in InDesign, highlight the line of text you want to adjust and go to the Character menu (Window > Type & Tables > Character or Ctrl + T). The leading can be adjusted by clicking the control arrows, selecting a value from the drop down or by entering a specific value. The leading in the example is set to 23pt and the text is only 8 pt. That setting means there is a large space ABOVE the highlighted text. Leading only affects the spacing above the text that is selected.

Paragraph Spacing in InDesign

You can also use the Paragraph Spacing function in InDesign. Add space before or after a paragraph via the Paragraph menu (Window > Type & Tables > Character or Alt + Ctrl + T). In this example the Space After the paragraph that ends with December, 2001 is set to .125”.

Paragraph Spacing in InDesign

Paragraph Spacing in MS Word and Publisher

Microsoft applications have a slightly different method for adjusting line and paragraph spacing. In Word you can use the Paragraph Menu located on the Home Tab or by right-clicking on the text you want to adjust and selecting Paragraph. In Publisher, go to Format > Paragraph.

Paragraph Spacing in Word

You can adjust spacing before and after a paragraph, or change the space between lines within the paragraph using the Line spacing setting.

Adding a Blank Space<>

The most common way to add a space between lines is to just hit the Return or Enter key again. I prefer to use the methods above, but you can use this method and even make adjustments to the amount of space by changing the font size of the blank line. Just remember the spacing rules!

Hard and Soft Returns

How do you control where the end of a line becomes the end of a paragraph?The easiest way to see this is to Show Hidden Characters in InDesign (Type < Show Hidden Characters or Alt + Ctrl + I). If you want to add a line break but NOT begin a new paragraph, hold down the Shift key while hitting Enter.

InDesign Returns

I hope you find this useful! Using the correct spacing will make your documents look more professional and attractive.

About Jon Zerndt
Jon Zerndt is the account manager for the office superstore and quick printer accounts at Affinity Express, and loves to spend time providing guidance and solving problems for clients.

4 Responses to Getting Line and Paragraph Spacing Just Right in Your Document

  1. Ken Swanson says:

    When I read this blog, it reminded me of what I read in Steve Job’s autobiography, about his passion for great typography. Great typography, coupled with the use of spacing, leading, etc. makes for the highest quality visual communication….amazing how far typesetting composition and design has come since the days of hot type.

  2. Santosh MANE says:

    Awesome, each person from the designing field should read this blog to improve their knowledge levels… have shared this with all my colleagues.

    Thanks for the sharing this with us!!!

    Waiting for more to come…..

  3. Raghunath says:

    Good

  4. Chinmoy Ghosh says:

    Very Informative…!

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