Get the lead out

What is leading and why do you care. Leading is the space between lines of type. It’s called leading because back in the old timey days when thing were printed with ink on paper people used printing presses. Printers used slugs of lead to create space between each line of type thus, leading. We still call it leading and if I had my way typeface would not be called font. Font actually refers to the size of type not to what typeface it is. But never mind. I’m sure by now you realize why leading is important. Designers use leading to cheat space or to make copy more readable. Below I made some samples of type that have different leading and as you can see the typeface used makes a difference in how the type looks. Often times headline or titles have tighter leading. Since there is typically less text in a headline or title there is more freedom to make it visually pleasing.

Leading can even be controlled somewhat in Word. Look for it in the Formatting Palette under Alignment and Spacing. The dos and don’ts are pretty simple:

Do increase leading for readability

Do increase leading in a pull quote—it will help emphasize the text

Do increase leading in things to be read aloud—often used for speeches or readings when some one may be looking away from the copy and back

Don’t decrease leading in body copy

Do decrease leading for headlines for a more compact attractive line—works best for san-serif type

Don’t decrease leading in serif type so much that the ligatures touch

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