While we’ve spent a bit of time exploring fonts in PowerPoint, there are more typography features and concepts that should be looked at, particularly leading, kerning, and tracking. These terms are all about the spacing between words, whether that be letter-by-letter or line-by-line.
Leading in Typography
Leading determines how text is spaced vertically in lines. The word originates from the days of manual typesetting when they used a strip of lead to alter the distance between lines of the typeset. Leading is measured from the baseline of each line of text where the letters ‘sit’. Descenders are letters with parts that fall below the baseline, such as lower-case g. Ascenders are the opposite – letters with taller features, like ‘h’.
Both letter types need to be considered when determining the leading distance. Traditionally, leading should be 20 per cent greater than the font size; however, individual styles may call for different distances.
Leading in PowerPoint
PowerPoint has a range of line-spacing defaults from 1.0 (single) to 3.0 (multiple x3), unfortunately PowerPoint’s single line-spacing option is often still too big. In order to tighten up those lines a bit there is a way to adjust the leading by point size.
- Select the text box you wish to edit and then select the Home
- In the Paragraph section, click on the dialog box launcher. This should open up a small window with various options.
- Click on the line spacing drop down menu and select Multiple, the second menu option will now have a number in it, by default this will be 3. I always like to knock it down to between 0.85 – 0.95, how much depends on which typeface you’re using and what you’re trying to achieve.
Selecting Multiple rather than Exactly means the line spacing will be relative, therefore if you increase or decrease the font size the line spacing will increase or decrease accordingly. As a general rule, avoid overlapping characters.
Kerning in Typography
Kerning also adjusts space, but of the distance between two letters. Set too closely together, words are indecipherable; set too far apart, and they’re awkward to read. Worse yet, if some letters have wider spacing and others narrower, it can be frustrating for someone to read without fully understanding what’s wrong.
One of the most important aspects of successful kerning is to have proportional spacing between each letter, taking into consideration any serifs or stylistic flourishes that may need special attention. Most of the time, it just takes a keen eye, practice, and diligence to kern a font to precision.
Tracking in Typography
Tracking is often confused for kerning, but the concept is a little different. Tracking involves adjusting the spacing throughout the entire word. Once you’ve determined the right spacing between each letter, tracking can be used, with great restraint, to change the spacing equally between every letter at once. Tracking is generally used to fill a space that’s larger or smaller than currently suits the type’s parameters or to make a single word seem airy and impressive. You should be very careful when changing the tracking, as it can quickly lead to difficulty in reading.
Tracking in PowerPoint
Once again, the default settings available in PowerPoint are not the most useful – ranging from Very tight through to Very loose, I find Normal to be slightly too loose and Tight to be too tight, so if you’re like me and you’d like to be slightly more precise, then follow these steps.
- Select the text box you wish to edit and then select the
- In the Font section, click the Character Spacing icon underneath the font size.
- Clicking this button should open a drop-down box that will probably be set to Normal as default. Here you’ll see the other options range from Very Tight to Very Loose.
If you want to increase the character spacing, choose Loose or Very Loose. If you want to decrease the character spacing select Tight or Very Tight. You’ll notice these are set to a default spacing of approximately 1pt. However, the text tracking will vary with font size – the bigger your text the more you need to condense/expand it by.
- If you’re not happy with these tracking pre-sets, click More Spacing to see further customisation options. Here you can set Character Spacing by 0.1 pt and kern all fonts above a specified size across your PowerPoint.
It’s important to note that typefaces have been designed for use at small sizes like 10 and 12, when you increase the size of text the white space increases proportionally, which may can look a little odd by offering too much space. If you are using larger text, then it is more important to spend a bit of time tweaking the character spacing.
If you do tighten up the tracking, you may notice that some letters overlap. This is when it’s important to adjust the kerning (as discussed above). To do so, follow the same steps as before but select the letter to the left of the space you’d like to alter. Kerning is particularly important with the numbers 0 and 1. If you create a textbox in PowerPoint with numbers ranging from 0 to 9, you may notice that the gaps around the 0 and 1 are much larger than the rest of the digits – so adjust the kerning to make things look tidier.