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what word spacing?

Nov 28, 2011 11:47 AM

    I am reading this tutorial here on typography: /http://


In chapter 2.1.1 makes a reference to word spacing, it mentions some general guidelines.


The problem is that it stays to them, it does not go any further.

It says for example:


ideal word space varies from one circumstance to another, depending on factors such as letterfit, type color, and size.


Yes, but what type color, letterfit and size.


For example, the typography on my site is blue, 12px, and the font is Berlin Sans FB.


What is the ideal word spacing given the above details?



  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 28, 2011 3:43 PM   in reply to JimVag1947

    "Color" does not mean color in the sense of the rainbow. It applies to

    the optical sensation of the ratio between the black print and white


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  • John Hawkinson
    5,572 posts
    Jun 25, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 29, 2011 11:08 AM   in reply to JimVag1947

    "Font color" is not an color like blue, red, or any other color "of the rainbow."

    "Font color" is a somewhat abstract idea of how dense a font is. Just replace the words with "how the font looks."

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 29, 2011 12:22 PM   in reply to JimVag1947

    Practical example --


    Take a very thick, dark, heavy, extra bold, font and create a paragraph.


    Then take a very thin, extra-light font, and type the same paragraph.


    The heavier font will need much looser word and letter spacing to look

    half-way decent; otherwise the 'color' of the page will be too dark.


    The light font, on the other hand, can be set with very tight word and

    letter spacing, because otherwise the page color will be too light.


    Think of it as the fonts' effect on the percentage of the page covered

    with ink. A high percentage is a dark color, a low percentage is a light

    color. Changing the spacing will change the percentage - i.e., the

    color. Once more - the word color here is a typographic term that has

    nothing at all to do with redness or blueness.


      - Herb

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 29, 2011 4:58 PM   in reply to HerbVB

    The only time you should need to adjust word spacing is if the typeface is being used at a size substantially different than what it was designed for. In that case you tighten slightly when a typeface is being used at much larger sizes than it was intended for, or loosen when it is being used at smaller sizes than intended.


    For example, a typeface like Verdana, intended for body text on screen, being used for a large heading, might benefit from tighter word spacing.


    Herb's a sharp guy and has done a great job of explaining what typographic “color” is.


    Yet, as a typographer, I disagree rather strongly with Herb's assertions about the need for a user to change the spacing of type based on the "color" of the font. I'd be willing to bet a very nice dinner that the overwhelming majority of typographers would agree with me. Color is essentially inherent in the chosen font, and messing with the word (or worse, the letter) spacing to try to even out the color will just make a mess. Lighter fonts are deliberately designed with looser spacing, and bolder fonts with tighter spacing, as the space between letters is roughly the same as the space inside letters. That isn't something that needs “correction” in order to achieve some different typographic color. Pick a typeface that achieves the color you want, or increase the line spacing, but don't munge the word spacing (or worse, the letter spacing) to get a different color. That will just harm the readability and appearance of the page.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 29, 2011 5:50 PM   in reply to Thomas Phinney

    Tom is absolutely correct. The only time that a font's built-in spacing

    characteristics should be changed is if the font was poorly designed in

    the first place, or, more rarely, if some special effect or appearance

    is sought.


    I have (rarely and I hope judiciously) modified letter and word spacing

    when text blocks had to be justified and didn't look quite right

    otherwise. Of course this had nothing to do with color.


    To go back to JimVag's original question, he mentioned Berlin Sans FB, a

    well-formed, interesting font by David Berlow, a founder of the Font

    Bureau. It should be used as is.


      - Herb

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 2, 2011 8:24 AM   in reply to JimVag1947



    now i have the feeling that sth is not good in the picture below. Difficult to pinpoint it correctly.


    What do you think?


    In the third and seventh lines, the space after the punctuation mark is missing (before Σκοπος and βασικος).

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 2, 2011 2:57 PM   in reply to JimVag1947

    I know, Dimitris, sorry, it was stronger than I.


    There should be a bit of space to the left, of course, between the frame and the text.


    Obviously, the italics part is tighter, and the regular part is wider. At the (type)face of it, something in between might be nicer. One way of assessing the look itself is to view it upside down (replacing the text with something nonsensical works to a certain extent).


    But, apart from the way it looks, the right spacing between words may depend on both the reader and the text. A A bit tighter may be suitable for easy reading, a bit wider for careful reading.

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