Re: Thin Space?

Subject: Re: Thin Space?
From: "Richard G. Combs" <richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 09:14:50 -0700

Arlen Walker <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- jci -dot- com> wrote:

> >Simon and I corresponded off-list about our disparate definitions of a
> >thin. We came to the conclusion that traditional US usage is one-third
> >of an em (shorthanded as 3-em)
> Really? I would have thought Chicago would be a good source for
> "traditional US usage," and Chicago (14th ed., page 853-4 in my copy) has
> discussion of spacing:
> Hair = 5-em
> Thin = 4-em
> Thin is smallest space you want between words, resulting in a rather close
> line. Further, "word" spacing, that is the normal space between words you
> might get from your keyboard's space bar is 3-em (18.21).
> Are we having fun, yet?

Heck, yes! Want even more typography fun? The Framers list
( has had much discussion about spaces in the last few
days. Most everything said there contradicts most everything said here. ;-)

The Framers list typography experts all agree that Frame's thin space is
1/12th of an em. Most of them think this is too small (in the hair space
range, 1/10th to 1/15th em), but that PageMaker's thin space (1/4th em) is
too large.

A thin space is *not* the standard word space. Roger Jones of Terra
Publishing offered the following description:
"A thin space should leave no doubt that the preceding element is separated
from the following element. It should also leave no doubt that in tight word
spacing the thin space is distinctly thinner than the thinnest interword
space. To my eye, the FM 1/12-em thin space fails on the former and the
PageMaker 1/4-em thin space on the latter, hence my preference for what I
originally found to be the Ventura thin space, which in the manual is
equated to the width of a full stop or period."

There then ensued a discussion of whether thin (or hair) spaces should be
used around em dashes, en dashes, both, neither, or the old standby, "it
depends." Great fun!


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com
rgcombs -at- free-market -dot- net

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