Line Spacing (Leading)

Line spacing, or leading, is the space between each line of text. It’s automatic in word processors, but that doesn’t mean it’s set to a print industry standard nor does it mean that it’s the same throughout your text.

Industry standards for print are set to be aesthetic and easy to read. It’s usually between 120-145% of the text’s point size (1.03-1.24 for Word’s line-spacing math). Common automatic distances on word processors are set to be single or double, which neither falls within the industry standard range. This means you will have to check and adjust the line spacing yourself.

Formatting Tip: Set your line spacing to be 120-145% of your point size for easy reading in print (1.03-1.24 in Word)

For more on the history of line spacing and industry standards and examples of different spacing percentages, Practical Typography has a great explanation of the best values to use as part of their Page Layout guide.

As part of formatting and your last editing look through, you should make sure your line spacing matches industry standards, feels right as you read, and is the same throughout.

It will help to have a basic understanding of how to use Styles in both Microsoft Word and Google Docs. If you haven’t used them before, follow the links for an introduction.

Formatting Tip: Use Styles for all formatting

How to check your line spacing

As you look through your manuscript, watch for any spaces between the lines that look different than the others. This can happen when a Style hasn’t properly been applied or formatted correctly.

Formatting Tip: Double check that spacing is the same throughout.

If you find a section where the spacing is off, reapply the Style you’ve formatted for body text (regular/normal text). The reapplication should fix the spacing. If it doesn’t make sure the Style is formatted properly for line spacing.

You should also make sure the line spacing you’ve chosen is easy to read. Spacing on the screen looks different on a printed page. Print out a page or two of your text and see if the spacing still looks comfortably readable. Does the gap look too large between the lines? Too small? Fold the paper in half length-wise and hold it over a favorite book that’s easy to read. Compare the differences. Readers will put your book down if the spacing is weird and makes reading difficult.

How to adjust line spacing in Word

Line spacing can be adjusted through the Paragraph settings dialog box. This can be accessed from the Line and Paragraph Spacing icon on the Home banner or through modifying the text’s Style.

Line and Paragraph Spacing icon drop down on Home banner in MS Word
Line and Paragraph Spacing icon dropdown on Home banner in MS Word

In the Paragraph dialog box, look for the Spacing section and the Line Spacing drop-down box.

Paragraph Dialog Box with Line Spacing drop down box selected.
paragraph dialog box in MS Word

To set the line spacing values to be between the preferred 120-145% of the text’s point size, select Multiple from the dropdown and set the value somewhere between 1.03-1.24. Word uses its own math algorithm for spacing values, so 1.03-1.24 is Word’s equivalent of 120-145%.

Try a few point values within the suggested range and see what you like best. Just keep within the suggested range.

How to adjust line spacing in Google Docs

Google Docs has a custom line spacing dialog box that can be accessed through the line spacing icon on the icon banner or the Format dropdown on the main menu banner.

Custom spacing dialog box in Google Docs
custom spacing dialog box in Google Docs

Google Docs’ spacing values are similar enough to Microsoft Word’s that we recommend using the same point value range, 1.03-1.24, to achieve the 120-145%. If you compare them on paper by matching the texts on top of each other, there is a slight difference. Without a touching comparison, you won’t see the difference.

Looking for more formatting or editing for print layout tips? Check out our guide!

Line Spacing (Leading) title

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.