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.)


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.


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.


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.

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