Leading vs line spacing

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    The complexities of leading / line height / line spacing are much more detailed than this, but I'll write that stuff up separately. For now this image addresses the major point that's been on my mind lately.

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    Transcription:
    "Leading is like jelly betwixt the bread of a typographic sandwich. Line spacing is equal to one layer of jelly plus one slice of bread. If you have a 48 pt line of type with 12 pt leading, your line spacing is 60 pt.

    "Note: A majority of digital software erroneously uses leading to refer to what is actually line spacing. The term leading originates from physical letterpress typesetting where metal strips of various thickness are inserted between lines of type."

    codywalton, joshuast, André Mora, and 73 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Claus Eggers Sørensen 36 months ago | reply

      Conceptually it's accurate. How OSs and applications define/calculate/derive the values for these three concepts is where things go pear-shaped.

    2. Claus Eggers Sørensen 36 months ago | reply

      I can see you've chosen to mark linespacing with first leading, then a line of type. This should of course be the other way around. You put leading in between lines of type, so the the first line of type in a block of text has it's leading beneath it, not above.

    3. Nick Sherman 36 months ago | reply

      That depends, as you said, on which tools you're using to compose. For example, if you select a line of type in InDesign and increase its line spacing value (or "leading" as they call it), space is inserted above that line, not below it. That is, unless that line is at the top of a text frame, in which case it doesn't move at all.

      You'll notice that for this diagram I made a point to say the line spacing is "equal to", as opposed to "is". This is a subtle differentiation which is more forgiving, since the line spacing value will be the same regardless of if you're measuring from baseline to baseline, x-height to x-height, lead to lead, etc.

      This all led me to other complex concepts about the relationships between font size, line height, inter-line spacing (aka leading), and total effective line spacing. I won't go in to it too far, but consider the fact that in TextEdit, adjusting the "line height" and "inter-line spacing" has different effects on how and where space is added or removed.

      I'm planning to go in to this all in a bit more depth, with diagrams, when I have some more free time.

    4. jcburns 36 months ago | reply

      I'm thinking kerning vs. tracking may be appropriately next.
      Of course, I use the more technical term "inter-character squish."

    5. handcoding 36 months ago | reply

      For those using a screen reader, the text reads:

      "Leading is like jelly betwixt the bread of a typographic sandwich. Line spacing is equal to one layer of jelly plus one slice of bread. If you have a 48 pt line of type with 12 pt leading, your line spacing is 60 pt.

      "Note: A majority of digital software erroneously uses leading to refer to what is actually line spacing. The term leading originates from physical letterpress typesetting where metal strips of various thickness are inserted between lines of type."

    6. Nick Sherman 36 months ago | reply

      Thanks for transcribing. I should have done it myself earlier.

    7. André Mora 36 months ago | reply

      Since I see nothing wrong with the diagram, I made no comment. I'll wait until Nick writes more.

      To me, the bigger issue is still the rights/wrongs of appropriating the word "leading" and what we should ultimately be calling what InDesign wrongs says is "leading."

      Does "line-spacing" sound like an easy thing to describe to someone? CSS gets around this by using "line-height" and I think "height," like weight, is easier to grasp than space. Basically, "line spacing" still _feels_ like "leading" to me, even though I know exactly what it is. I think it's because space feels like it shouldn't include a thing (the line of type).

      So I'm not at all disagreeing with your explanation/definition shown above. I just look forward to more thoughts, graphs, and, of course, the now required implementation of peanut butter.

    8. Mediumjones 36 months ago | reply

      @handcoding

      For those using a screen reader…

      As considerate as that may be, now you have me curious as to how many users with a screen reader browse actually browse Flickr. And of them, how many browse topics such as typography and graphic design?

    9. flowers&fleurons 36 months ago | reply

      My penny's worth: what also needs to be considered here is the type of bread - a l/c dense dough like a bagel would visually need less jelly; an airy u/c dough with lots of air pockets like a 3-seed wholemeal would visually need extra jelly...

    10. bjornmeansbear 36 months ago | reply

      Except that kerning and letter-spacing aren't often incorrectly labeled inside software. Nick's main problem is that all modern software, from word processors to even indesign use the words leading and line-spacing interchangeably when they are in-fact two different things historically. I can't think of any software I have used recently that calls letter-spacing kerning or vice versa—some people might, but not the tools themselves.

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