Typography 101 – Formatting a Book in Word Using Kerning, Leading, and Tracking

The formatting process is one aspect of book publishing that can be frustrating for self-publishers, and when that time comes, you need to get it right. The last thing you want is for your book to LOOK like it was self-published. Adobe InDesign is a better program for formatting than Word, but most self-published authors don’t have InDesign and they don’t know how to use it, so they default to Word – which is entirely fine for most books containing largely text, i.e. fiction.

When using Microsoft Word to format your book, it is not uncommon to come across challenges related to the typesetting, especially once you drop your manuscript into a book template. This is when things can get funky and can cause the book to look a little too amateurish. For this blog post, our three areas of focus are kerning, tracking, and leading, which can help improve appearances. Unless you began your writing career on a typewriter, there’s a chance that these terms are new to you. Maybe we can help.

Kerning increases or decreases the spacing between certain pairs of letters. Take the letters AV for example. They look better if their edges overlap slightly. It is not done to whole words or blocks of text.

Tracking is the spacing between characters in a line of text.

Leading is the amount of space between lines in a paragraph.

The instructions that follow are applicable to most versions of Word.

How to Adjust Kerning in Word

So you want to adjust kerning. Select the text that you would like to adjust (or apply changes to all text). In the Font menu, select Advanced. In the Character Spacing section, you can choose if you want expanded or condensed kerning, and by how many points. You can also have raised or lowered kerning, and you can apply it to a desired font size. You can choose to have the kerning spacing applied automatically (as is default), or you can manually set the spacing you’d like between characters. The idea with kerning is to create a more visually appealing and balanced look by reducing the spaces between characters that fit together nicely and increasing the spacing between characters that don’t.

Kerning Examples



When kerning is applied, you can see that the “A” fits more snugly against the “V,” creating a more appealing look.

How to Adjust Tracking in Word

Not to be confused with kerning, tracking (basically, letter spacing) refers to the amount of space between a group of letters. It is a uniform adjustment to the spacing of a word or block of text affecting its density and texture.

Tracking Examples







To adjust the tracking, follow the same basic steps for the automatic kerning, which can be found by accessing the Font menu. Instead of choosing just a pair of characters, select the entire line or block of text that you’d like to have uniform spacing. It can be done automatically by choosing Condensed or Expanded, or you can set your own spacing parameters.

How to Adjust Leading in Word

Leading refers to the distance between lines of text or paragraphs. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.

To change the line spacing for part of your document, select the paragraphs/section you want to change, and go to the Paragraph menu. In the Spacing option, choose whether you want to change the spacing before or after the selected text. Select what spacing you choose (6 pt., 12 pt., etc.). To make this change to your entire document, simply select all and make go through the same process.

It is always good to look at your manuscript with a critical eye, and make any adjustments that are necessary in order to have a polished and professional final product.

Don’t want to bother with the ins and outs of book formatting? We can do it for you.