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In this chapter, we are going to talk about leading, the space between the lines, so called because it used to be achieved by adding thin strips of lead, and we can achieve leading far more easily by using the control panel, and we can just nudge the leading up or down. We can choose the value from the leading scale. We can type in a value, or with the type selected, we can just use these quick keyboard shortcuts: Option or Alt and the down arrow to increase the leading, Option or Alt and the up arrow to decrease, or tighten the leading.
Now, how much leading is the right amount? There is no answer to that question, as you probably got it. It is going to depend upon a number of things, and these are some of the things that it will depend upon. As a general rule of thumb, for continuous reading text, we want plus 1 to plus 3 of our point size. That's a general, very broad rule of thumb for working in print. Different rules apply when working onscreen, and I will be devoting a chapter to screen typography a bit later on.
But here is a consideration; what is the X-height of the typeface that you are using? As I mentioned earlier, some typefaces have X-heights that are relatively high, and some less so. An example of a typeface with a relatively high X-height is Helvetica, and because of that, Helvetica and other fonts with a high X-height will require a bit more leading. On the left-hand side, we have Caslon 9 point on 10 point leading.
If we were to use the same leading value with the Helvetica, it's going to look too tight, and that's going to diminish the readability. The descenders are going to start to get very close to the ascenders of the lines that follow. Another consideration is the width of your column, or your column measure. This is very important in determining the readability of your text, and I will be talking about what is a good width for your columns, but right now we have these two examples, both of which are too wide, really; I have too many characters per line, but we see how we can compensate for the increased number of characters per line by increasing the leading, and that will make the type more readable.
It's an obvious point, but still one worth making. Should we want to reverse our type out of a solid background, it will increase that type's readability by increasing the leading by 1 or 2 points. That's what's happened in the example on the right-hand side. Sometimes when working with display type -- and this is only applicable to display type, you wouldn't need to get this fussy about, body copy -- sometimes you may need to manually adjust the leading according to the characteristics of the letters that you are working with.
In this case, in the top example, the leading is consistent throughout the paragraph, but there appears, optically, to be more space between lines three and four, and this is a factor of there being no descenders on the word temptation, so it looks like there is more space between these two lines. You can see in the example below, I have compensated for that by adding some optical leading, some manual intervention. And if I wanted to do that, I would just select that line, and then Option or Alt, and the up arrow, and just do that until visually it looks like the spacing between the lines is consistent.
Consistency with leading is all important. We don't want our leading to vary, because then our text is going to lose its rhythm, and it's going to look like it is the visual equivalent of a concertina, constantly varying the space between the lines. And another consideration is when working with leading and multiple columns, how wide should the space between the columns be? On the left-hand side, we have a two column layout where the gutter width is too tight, and if we look at this more closely, what's likely to happen is that when the reader gets to the end of the first column, because the gutter space, the space between the two columns, is actually less than the space between the lines, the temptation is for the eye to jump the column, and go on and read the first line of column two.
So we want to make sure that when we are working with multicolumn text, that the gutter space, and that's this value right here, is at least as much as the leading value, and in this case, I've made it exactly the same. So there are just a few considerations when setting the leading of your type. Now, in the next movie, I am going to address the thorny issue of auto-leading, and why it's best avoided.
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