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Sperren / Sperrsatz (increased letter-spacing → emphasis)

May 13, 2009 8:37 PM

It is possible to add emphasis to a word in character-based languages by increasing the letter spacing.  It is especially common in German, but can be used in Swedish, English, et cetera.

The simplest production is to insert an extra  s p a c e  between the letters, like so.  In fact, typographically the desired spacing will generally be less than a normal word-space (i.e. space between words in unemphasised text).

In HTML this can be approximated using commands such as

Dies ist <span style="letter-spacing:0.125em">falsc</span>h gesperrt, so ist e<span style="letter-spacing:0.125em">s richti</span>g.

producing this output:

"Dies ist falsch gesperrt, so ist es richtig."

(Taken from

In Microsoft Word the nicest way is to adjust the character spacing, accessed through the menus via Format > Font > Character Spacing > Spacing.  One then chooses the spacing to be Expanded by the default of one point, or by some other decimal amount. Just to make it clear:  there is absolutely no space character inserted between the letters when this technique is used;  it is just that the existing letters are permitted to occupy more room.


Unfortunately, creating a PDF out of this leads to poor character interpretation, although visually the output may be perfect.

For the example, if the word character were emphasised, then copying and pasting the text from the PDF may yield in an odd result such as "ch ar a c t er" or "char a cter" or "c har ac ter".


Is there a resolution to this problem?




P.S. PDF/A-1a might solve the problem (intuitively reasonable), but my trial version of Acrobat 9 (6 days left to run) is suddenly complaining that it needs to be activated :-P

  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 21, 2009 4:32 AM   in reply to D.I.V.

    Are you making these changes to the PDF ? If so that's the wrong place. Do your typesetting in the authoring program. Don't attempt to do this in the PDF afterwards -- Especially not if you want to keep your sanity. Adobe InDesign would be the application I would use for this kind of precise typsetting.

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