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Chapter 7. Space Inside Boxes > Using the Letter-Spacing Property

Using the Letter-Spacing Property

As with word spacing, increasing or decreasing the distance between the letters in a word should be done with moderation. Begin with small amounts if your intention is to improve readability.

Adjusting the letter spacing is seldom done in running text. When it is used, it is often because tradition calls for it. For example, a publisher producing a “critical edition” (a book comparing different versions of another book) often demands that letter spacing be used in certain types of footnotes. Professional designers often frown on the use of letter spacing for anything other than titles because it interferes with the spacing between the letters of a font. The font’s designer has usually carefully determined the optimal distance between each pair of letters – ab, bo, bi, Bl, and so on – to achieve a uniform look for all pairs. Some pairs, such as VA, require less space between them, otherwise they look too spaced. Simply adding or subtracting a fixed amount of space is likely to give less-than-pleasing results. Increasing the spacing may cause nonuniform distribution of white space. Decreasing the spacing may cause some letters to touch each other while others don’t. Also, if the shapes of certain combinations of letters don’t match very well, the font designer may have provided ligatures to replace them. However, when a nonzero letter-spacing value is requested, those ligatures must be abandoned, and you end up with a displeasing match of characters.


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