Watch This Space

Look carefully at a book page. What do you see? Lots of words, of course. But what you don’t see is just as important. I’m talking about the white space on a page. What if there were no spaces between the words? You would have a hard time reading!.

Spacing allows the eye to follow the text and easily move from one line to another. Let’s find out about the spaces that impact the design of an interior book page.

Margins – There are detailed mathematical calculations you could use to determine the exact dimensions of margins to use, but if you follow a few simple rules the  appearance of the body text is enhanced. The outside margin should be wide enough so that when a reader holds the book, the thumb covers little or no text. The inside margin should be slightly wider than the outside margin to allow for the natural bend of the page near the binding—we don’t want words lost in the cracks! Margins, line space, and text size can be adjusted to allow for the standard 42-lines per page, and between 60 and 70 characters per line.

Line Spacing – Sufficient space between the lines not only gives a less cramped appearance to the page, but also allows the reader to easily read without losing her place when moving to the next line. Line spacing should be two to four points more than the font size, so for a 12 point typeface use 14 to 16 point line spacing. Did you know the correct terminology for line spacing is leading, because in letterpress days, narrow slugs of lead were added between lines of type to increase the spacing. It sure is easier today to make changes to the line spacing!

Paragraph Spacing – A page appears more cohesive when there is no extra line space between paragraphs. To identify a new paragraph, indent the first line by about a quarter of an inch.

Word Spacing – Large gaps between words are eliminated by hyphenating a word at the end of the line where possible, or adjusting the space between letters (kerning) to force more letters on the line before it breaks. In desperation, you may want to add, delete, or change the text to make the words fit on the line without the ugly white spaces!

End of Sentence Spacing – Although we may have been taught to put two spaces at the end of sentences, we’ve progressed beyond the days of the manual typewriter. Two spaces after a period is not only a sure sign of amateur design, it also causes unequal white spaces in a line of text.

Blank Pages – When a blank page is needed, especially at the end of the chapter, it should be completely and downright empty—no header, no footer, no page number. Blank pages should always be a left page.

The subtle ways to manipulate white spaces on the page add the polish that makes a good book into a great book