Re: Thin Space?

Subject: Re: Thin Space?
From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 17:08:22 -0500


When you set justified text, the space between words varies. When you set text that is flush left, for example (and ragged right, of course), the spaces between the words are all the same.

The standard word space in this circumstance is called a thin. It is _nominally_ one-third of an em wide. In other words, if you are setting 12 pt type, the thin is 4 pt wide. However, the font designer actually specifies the width of the thin. So if you are working in a condensed font it will be narrower than one-third of an em, and if you are working in an expanded font, it will be wider. In addition, a layout program (PageMaker, Quark, InDesign--I don't know about Frame) allows you to specify that the type should be set tight or loose. These settings also adjust the actual width of the thin.

The other fixed spaces you will typically encounter are the en space (one-half of an em), the figure space (the width of a numeral, usually but not always the same as the en space), and the em space (nominally a square of the point size, but adjusted by the designer for condensed and expanded fonts).

You should also know that certain characters always have the same widths as certain spaces. For example, numerals and mathematical operators and delimiters (such as $ and %) are always the width of the figure space. Small punctuation (period, comma, colon, semi, hyphen) are always the width of the thin space. Well, almost always, but you can generally count on it.

These are good facts to know when you are designing tables, among other things.


Lin Sims wrote:

Ok, I give up. I've done some research, and other than determining that a thin space is "the thinnest space that normally separates words", what is it and what's it for?
(NB: I do NOT have a background in typography, and until I started using Frame I'd never heard of thin spaces. After I started using Frame I'd heard of them, but ignored them completely.)

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Thin Space?: From: Lin Sims

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