Leading me on…

To the next topic that is! Today we are discussing leading (pronounced led-ing). Leading also known as line spacing gets it’s name from the days of metal type in which typographers would physically insert thin pieces of lead between lines of type to achieve the desired spacing. In digital typesetting, this is done automatically; however, can (and usually should) be adjusted manually for the optimal legibility. The default standard is 120% of the type’s point size. Meaning, if the type is set in 12pt then the leading is 14.4pt. If the type is set in 10pt then the leading is 12pt or in shorthand 10/12.

Leading is measured from baseline to baseline and that extra space is important to let our eyes not only rest, but stay focused on the current line. If the type is set 12/12 (also called set solid) it can be difficult to read.The ascenders and descenders seem to mash together causing our eyes to jump  lines.


Leading_0001_Layer-2Before auto leading, text blocks were normally spaced with 2 extra points of lead. Whether it was 8/10, or 10/12, or 12/14 the 2 points of space would allow our eyes to stay on the line and provide even color space to the page.

autoWith the advent of digital desktop publishing, software took control of auto leading. Using the spacing standard of 120% of the type’s point size, this formula works well on a large variety of sizes from small to medium sizes.auto As with all automatic type tools, some manual adjustments need to be made (especially at large point sizes.

Finally, type that is set too loosely can be difficult to follow as well. As I am sure most of us were trained in school about double spacing, this is not good for legibility (that trend was for teachers to correct things in between the lines. How it became the standard is beyond me.) It forces the eye to search for the next line and causes a washed out color when set in large bodies of copy.

What’s the Point?

Leading, also known as line spacing, is measured from baseline to baseline and is important to the overall color of the page.

Leading: The distance between the baselines of successive lines of type.

10/12: Shorthand for 10 point type with 12 points of leading.

120%: The digital standard for auto leading. This works well until large point sizes.