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Setting Leading in Desktop Publishing Software

Reading (the space) between the lines

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Leading is also known as line spacing

Leading is the space between lines of text but is measured from baseline to baseline. | Type & Fonts FAQ | Glossary of Type & Fonts Terms

Leading is the space between lines of text. Pronounced ledd-ing, its name comes from the practice of using metal strips (usually lead) of varying widths to separate lines of text in the days of metal type.
Leading is also called line spacing. Some programs offer multiple ways to specify leading which can lead to some confusion.

Although it refers to the space between lines of text, leading measurements are generally specified as the amount of space from baseline to baseline. Leading is normally measured in points, just like type.

How much leading?
One rule of thumb suggests adding about 20% or around 2 points to the point size of your text as a starting point for adjusting line spacing. Less is generally too crowded.

Changing the leading of text affects its appearance and readability. When starting a new project, experiment with the amount of leading to find what works best. Increased line spacing is also another way to combat gray pages and introduce more white space into a page layout.

Do all programs set leading the same way?
Depending on the software, leading can be a point measurement (10 pt, 12 pt, 29.5 pt, etc.) or a percentage of the typesize (10 pt type set with 120% leading). Some software programs give multiple options.

Three methods of specifying leading are described here:

  • In the PageMaker control palette select a point measurement for leading from the drop down menu or type in a number. Choosing Auto will calculate leading for each line based on the percentage set for Autoleading (described below).

  • In some programs, to get 10 point type with 12 point leading don't put 12 points for line spacing — tell the program to add 2 pts to the point size of the type (10+2=12).

  • CorelDRAW allows the user to specify an exact point amount or to use a percentage of the type size.

There are other options associated with leading. Page layout programs will generally provide greater control over these options. For example, in PageMaker the user can select a Leading method — proportional, top of caps, or baseline. It simply changes the way the software allocates or measures the leading between lines of text.

Normally the leading is measured from the baseline of one line of text to the baseline of the next. Or, the user could measure it from the top of the caps (Capitals) of one line to the top of the caps of the next. The amount of space is the same, but it affects the space between the first line of text and the text frame.

If text frames that have the same leading throughout don't seem to line up line for line with each other — check the leading method. A change from one paragraph to the next can also account for unexplained gaps or tight spaces between paragraphs.

Automated Leading
With Auto Leading the program calculates what it believes to be the correct leading based on the text size. Be careful though. If the type size changes on portions of the text while auto leading is in use, the results can be less than attractive.

The Desktop Document > Text Phase > Text Composition > Spacing

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