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Chapter 6. Type and Typography > Kerning and Tracking

Kerning and Tracking

There are times in life when all those little letters on a page are just too far apart or too close together. The problem may be between two characters in 120-point display type, or it may be throughout an entire font. Whatever the problem, QuarkXPress can control it through the use of kerning and tracking. These two features are similar, but let's look at them one at a time.


Know Your Ems and Ens. Many typographic controls are specified using units of measure called ems and ens. (Some people call the en a “nut” to distinguish it aurally from an em.) These are not nearly as confusing as some people make them out to be. The default for the em in QuarkXPress is the width of two zeros side by side in the font and size you're working in. If that sounds weird, it's because it is. I can't figure out why they did it that way, but that's just the way it is. The width of an en space is half of an em space—the width of one zero.

Because this is so weird and unreasonable, Quark has added a checkbox on the Character tab of the Preferences dialog box (Command-Y) labeled Standard Em Space. This sets the width of an em space to the same width that every other piece of software uses: the size of the typeface you're using. So if you're using 14-point Times with the Standard Em Space option turned on, the em space is 14 points wide. For consistency and a sense of doing the right thing, I recommend that you set this as your default (by changing the preference while no document is open).

If you're typing along and change point size, then the sizes of the em and en change as well. This can be a great aid. For example, if you change the size of a word after painstakingly kerning it, your kerning does not get lost or jumbled. The kerning was specified in fractions of an em, and therefore is scaled along with the type.

Em spaces and em dashes are not always equal in width. Usually they are (especially when Standard Em Space is turned on), but it really depends on what the typeface designer decided.



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