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Tip: Spacing it out

Tip: Spacing it out

One of the oft-forgotten features in Mellel 4.1 was word spacing. It should not be that way. Coming alongside other text layout features, such as Tracking and automatic kerning with TrueType fonts, word spacing allows you to make a huge step forward in terms of the accuracy of your text layout.

But you need to know how to use it. 

And here’s how. 

Minimum Word Spacing (MWS) is a paragraph attribute controlling the minimal spacing between words in a paragraph that’s Justified. Normally (i.e., with MWS set to 100%), the minimal word spacing is the spacing set by the space character imbedded within the font you’re using with that paragraph. It may be wider, sometimes, but never narrower. 

Usually, that’s a good thing and how it should be. But when the there are longer words in the text (think Freundschaftsbezeugung) or when the column is narrower or you cannot use hyphenation (think book format) some words at the end of a line may be too long to keep on the same line, and thus they are bumped to the next line. When that happens, Mellel needs to quickly solve the problem, because it has a gap at the end of the line. The solution? widening the spaces between the remaining words on that line so that the line will be justified. 

In most cases, this is also as it should be. But sometimes, especially when a longer word gets bumped to the next line, the spacing becomes too wide, and the line looks ugly. 

MWS solves this problem by allowing Mellel to set word spacing to something narrowerthan the spacing set within the font. Consider this situation:

Line three in this paragraph is already a bit “tight” (although other lines are spaced too generously). We add an “i” the “minimusimus” at the end of the line:

Now, “minimusimusi” was bumped, and we have ugly spacing on line three. But with MWS set to something less than 100%:


Now we have solved the “minimusimusi” problem on line three, and the text as a whole looks much nicer. 

And this is how to make the MWS happen: 

  1. Choose Styles > Paragraph > Edit <the style you want to edit> and set the Minimum Word Spacing to 94%. You can access the style via the Styles bar in the Toolbar, or via the Paragraph palette. From our testing, 94% is just about the right amount. It will usually ‘shorten’ your manuscript by 1-3 per cent (in page terms). You do not want to be too ‘generous’ with this option (like setting word spacing to 60%) so you don’t get stuck with asituationlikethisone. Setting this to 94% solves almost all of the potential spacing problems, with a minimal risk of ‘glueing’ words together.
  2. When the manuscript is complete and just about ready to be printed or saved to PDF, you should skim through it looking for cases where problems still exist, and then change the minimum word spacing directly in the Paragraph palette. Don’t save the changes into the style, of course, as this would betray the purpose of this trick.
  3. Act judiciously. That is, don’t just lower the minimum spacing until you get a good result. If lowering to ~65% doesn’t work, you should look for a different solution (e.g., fiddling with the text a bit).

Happy minimising.


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