Software

Create space with two helpful spacing options in Word

When spacing matters, use these two options to reduce and expand Word text inside a document.

Word's default spacing is adequate for the average document. Whether you're producing forms, lists, or letters, Word usually produces readable content. Occasionally, especially if you're producing professional documents, such as brochures, flyers, or even booklets, you might need more control. For instance, you might want a long heading that's wrapping to fit on a single line. Thanks to two of Word's spacing options, Spacing and Scale, a remedy is just a couple of clicks away. (Technically, the Scale option isn't a spacing feature - not typographically. However, changing scale will change the used area, so within that context, the term is correct.)

Spacing

To illustrate how to manipulate the spacing between characters, we'll use Word's Spacing option to pull the following heading onto one line, as follows:

  1. Select the text and right-click it. (I've applied the built-in style Heading 1 to this text.)
  2. Choose Font from the resulting submenu.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Change the Spacing setting to Condensed.
  5. Click OK.

Word does a good job of making the content fit without distorting the actual font. That's because this feature alters the space between the characters. It doesn't change the actual shape of the character. You can also stretch the content to fill more space by choosing the Expanded setting. Use the By options (measured in points) to increase or decrease spacing even further. Do so sparingly and remember, you can always reset things by pressing [Ctrl]+Z.

Scale

Changing the Scale setting is the second method for overcoming spacing issues, but it works differently. This feature changes the shape of the characters by making them narrower or wider. Using the original heading (with the Spacing option reset to Normal), repeat steps 1 through 3 above. Then, choose 90% from the Scale option. When comparing the two results, you'll notice that there's more spacing between the scaled words because scaling doesn't change the spacing; it changes the shape of the characters. For this reason, a heavy hand can generate distorted results.

How do you know which option to use? If you're working with professional printing requirements, you'll probably have guidelines to follow. For the rest of us, there aren't any rules we can apply to help us choose between the two options. Experiment and go with the best-looking results. However, you probably won't change these settings for normal body text. In addition, you can use the two options together.

If neither option produces the results you need, consider changing the font face with the following knowledge in mind: the number of characters per line varies with each font. If you want to squeeze more characters into a smaller area, choose a more compact font, and vice versa. Also, keep in mind that as you reduce space, the block of text appears darker. As you increase space, the text appears lighter.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

7 comments
ace203jh
ace203jh

Several letter spacing options are available in Word. One rule is whatever option you select, NEVER NEGLECT READABILITY. While that seems obvious, the many formatting options tempt to jeopardize that cardinal rule. The font size, color, spacing, etc must be readable. If your reader must read a lot of documents, avoid unusual fonts that might be more suitable for a greeting cards or advertising. Fonts with serif (small ticks and curls at end of lines of the letter, e.g.: Times New Roman) look classic, but can cause problems when your reader begins to suffer fatigue from reading and the serif marks may blur and obscure clarity of each letter. Condensed space between letters can also provoke bluring. And if your document might be photocopied, and copied from photocopies, by the third or fourth generation or more, the condensed space between letters can turn into grey blurs. Both serif and condensed spacing should be used sparingly especially if your reader might have difficulty with clarity of reading vision.

Viktor_f
Viktor_f

Would also be great for similar description in the Open Office. Lat week got the statistics that it takes up to 25% world market. Try to find the link and post later

boboates
boboates

I've found that selecting text and using Ctrl+[ to "shrink" or Ctrl+] to "grow" selected text by one point to be very helpful. It's a quick fix to get text to fit on a line or within a text box, and it works in PowerPoint and Outlook, but not in Excel or in Visio. The down side is that it does alter the font size.

deICERAY
deICERAY

Sorry "notepad," not "notebook."

deICERAY
deICERAY

I'd also recommend a font viewer utility, something like MooO Font viewer, that allows you to type in a phrase and see that phrase set in every font you have on your PC; sometimes just a small font change can get you the spacing you want, especially with typefaces with many standard variations, like Arial, Tacoma, Times, etc. Also if a font adjustment works, it may simplify editing, as Word is notorious for copying more than just characters and pasting more than just the words. This is easily seen in emails sent from Outlook, where editing is a nightmare; I often Ctrl+A from the document and Ctrl+V into notebook and save as txt, just to resolve mixed formatting problems, before editing them back into the document.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Thanks for mentioning it -- in a pinch, it might be all that's needed!

Ron_007
Ron_007

Thanks, I never knew what scale did, but I have used spacing more than once. Speaking of font viewers, have your (or any of your readers) seen a font viewer that displays the new "OpenType" font features introduced with Office 2010? I would like to use more of the "fancy font" features, but since only a few of the font sets include them it's hard to find which sets to use. I would like a viewer that displays all of the options at once.