Spaces

Microsoft Word comes with four kinds of spaces:

* word spaces

* nonbreaking spaces

* em spaces

* en spaces

The word space is just the ordinary space used between words–the kind you insert with the spacebar. Its main strength is its variable size, which is especially important with justified type. Microsoft Word ordinarily expands word spaces to make justification work, but you can also get it to compress them. For more information, see the October 31, 2001, issue of Editorium Update:

http://www.topica.com/lists/editorium/read/message.html?mid=1708754845

The nonbreaking space, unlike the word space, won’t break at the end of a line. It’s often used to link proper names (so that “J.R.R.” stays on the same line as “Tolkien”), as well as percentages (“98 percent”), page numbers (“page 3”), and, as explained in last week’s newsletter, ellipses:

http://www.topica.com/lists/editorium/read/message.html?mid=1709407200

Keep in mind, however, that the nonbreaking space is unlike the word space in another way: its size is fixed (relative to the current point size). In certain typefaces, with justified type, that fixed size may make ellipses look unevenly spaced, so be careful. To enter a nonbreaking space, click Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > Nonbreaking Space. Or just press SHIFT + CTRL + SPACE. For more ways to use nonbreaking spaces, see the Readers Write column of the October 3, 2001, Editorium Update:

http://www.topica.com/lists/editorium/read/message.html?mid=1708466498

The em space is as wide as an em, which is a linear measure equal to the point size. For example, in 12-point type, an em is 12 points wide. In traditional typesetting, an em space was used as fixed-width indentation at the beginning of a paragraph. Nowadays we usually specify first line indent as part of paragraph formatting. But if you insist on using an em space, you can get one by clicking Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > Em Space.

The en space is half as wide as an em space. For example, in 12-point type, an en space is 6 points wide. It’s basically the same thing as a figure space, and it’s used in aligning lists of figures, or numbers. For example, in a list like this–

8. Lorem ipsum.

9. Dolor sit amet.

10. Consectetuer adipiscing elit.

–the periods and terminal figures all line up because the space in front of 8 and 9 is the same width (one en) as the 1 in the number 10. That’s right; in professional typefaces, all of the “lining figures” (numbers used in lists) are also one en wide. (Those old typesetters knew what they were doing.) In Microsoft Word you can achieve the same effect with tabs, but if you really want to use an en space, click Insert > Symbol > Special Characters > En Space.

In traditional typesetting, there are several other kinds of spaces, including (getting progressively fatter) the zero-width space, the hair space, the thin space, and the three-to-em space.

As its name indicates, the zero-width space has no width; you can’t even see it. Nevertheless, it will break at the end of a line, which comes in handy when you’ve got a long string of characters that you *do* want to break but that otherwise wouldn’t. For example, you might have some words joined by an em dash–like this. Ordinarily Microsoft Word won’t break on the left side of the dash, which can make for some ugly typography if you’ve got long words and narrow columns. To remedy the problem, put a zero-width space in front of the dash. How? Microsoft Word doesn’t include one, so you’ll have to make your own:

1. Insert an em space (since we want the size to be fixed relative to the current point size).

2. Select the space.

3. Set the space’s point size to 1. (We’d set it to 0, but Word won’t allow it. Still, 1 works pretty well, although you *can* see it, which means you’d better balance it with another one on the right side of the dash.)

The hair space is also sometimes used, for aesthetic purposes, on both sides of an em dash. I’ve also seen it used between the letter f and a closing quotation mark or other characters that look crowded together. Again, you’ll have to make your own:

1. Insert an em space (since we want the size to be fixed relative to the current point size).

2. Select the space.

3. Set the space’s point size to 1/10 of the current size, or as close to it as you can manage. Remember that you can type in .5 (4.5, 5.5, etc.) to bump up the size by half a point. If you need to make the hair space smaller than 1/10 of the current point size, feel free; many typographers do.

Then there’s the thin space, which some typographers (French ones, for example) use after certain punctuation marks, such as the colon. It’s also used to set off the first two numbers of years that are more than four numbers long: 10 000 B.C. (Remember, commas shouldn’t be used in dates.) I’ve also seen it used between ellipses. To make a thin space:

1. Insert an em space (since we want the size to be fixed relative to the current point size).

2. Select the space.

3. Set the space’s point size to 1/5 of the current size, or as close to it as you can manage. Remember that you can type in .5 (4.5, 5.5, etc.) to bump up the size by half a point. Some typographers define a thin space as half the size of a standard word space.

The three-to-em space, as you’ve probably surmised, is as wide as a third of the current point size. For a size of 12, that would be 4. The Chicago Manual of Style says to use this space between ellipses, which is okay with me. By now, you know how to make one.

There ought to be a better solution than making spaces by hand–PageMaker and QuarkXPress come to mind. But if you must work in Word, there is another way. It’s dark and dangerous, and its name is Unicode. But that’s a subject for another day.

By the way, I’m not saying you should actually *use* all these spaces in your day-to-day work. I’d use them only if I had to approximate fine typography in Microsoft Word, which is possible but certainly not easy. If you ever need to do that, maybe these spaces will help.

_________________________________________

READERS WRITE

Self-proclaimed Word heretic sent the following macros, which use Unicode to set zero-width spaces around various characters and character combinations (/, :/, and so on) to make sure they will break at the end of a line. Notice that you can modify the characters specified in Sub FixWordWrap to suit your own needs. (For example, you could use ^+ for an em dash.) If you don’t understand what’s going on with the characters, please see the articles on wildcard searching in past issues of Editorium Update. For information on how to use macros like these, see the May 30, 2001, issue of Editorium Update:

Using "Found" Macros

Thanks, Steve!


Sub FixWordWrap()
FixSymbolWordWrap "/{1,2}"
FixSymbolWordWrap ":/{1,2}"
FixSymbolWordWrap "[\]{1,2}"
FixSymbolWordWrap ":[\]{1,2}"
FixSymbolWordWrap "_"
End Sub
Private Sub FixSymbolWordWrap(Symbol As String)
' inserts a zero-width space after the symbol if text either side
Dim R As Range
Dim ZeroSpace As String
ZeroSpace = ChrW(8203)
On Error Resume Next
Const Pre As String = "([a-zA-Z0-9]"
Const Suf As String = ")([a-zA-Z0-9])"
Set R = ActiveDocument.Range
With R.Find
.MatchWildcards = True
.Text = Pre & Symbol & Suf
.Replacement.Text = "1" & ZeroSpace & "2"
.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End With
End Sub

This macro will remove the zero-width spaces if you change your mind:


Sub UnFixWordWrap()
Dim R As Range
Set R = ActiveDocument.Range
With R.Find
.Text = ChrW(8203)
.Replacement.Text = ""
.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End With
End Sub

_________________________________________

RESOURCES

For Microsoft’s take on typographical spaces, see the article here:

http://www.microsoft.com/typography/developers/fdsspec/spaces.htm

Check out this terrific typography primer from Robin Williams (the typographer, not the actor):

http://www.adobe.com/products/adobemag/archive/pdfs/9507lsrw.pdf

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