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#38 Applying Optical Margin Alignment

In typography, there is a difference between text that is numerically aligned and text that is optically aligned. When text is left aligned or right aligned, the aligned edges still look ragged sometimes due to the shape of the characters. For example, punctuation such as quotation marks, commas, and em dashes often cause this problem as do some letters such as "W" and "A." To fix this, InDesign provides optical margin alignment—also known as hanging punctuation—which "hangs" the edges of offending characters slightly outside the margins to produce a smoother looking edge (Figure 38a). This is a special effect that you will generally use sparingly for text such as pull quotes; it is not generally used for body text.

Figure 38a

Figure 38a At left, the text is left aligned, but the left edge looks ragged due to the opening quotation marks and the em dash. At right, the text has optical margin alignment, so the quotation marks and em dash hang slightly outside the margin.

Optical margin alignment is an attribute of a story—which consists of all the text in a series of threaded text frames—so you cannot apply it to selected paragraphs. However, you can select paragraphs and specify that they ignore optical margin alignment.

Applying Optical Margin Alignment to a Text Frame

To apply optical margin alignment to a text frame:

  1. Select a text frame with the Type tool or either selection tool.
  2. Choose Type > Story.
  3. Check Optical Margin Alignment in the Story panel (Figure 38b).
    Figure 38b

    Figure 38b Use the Story panel to create hanging punctuation for the selected text frame.

  4. Specify how much the text should hang outside the margins by entering a point size in the field. (In general, select the point size of the text itself.)

Setting Paragraphs to Ignore Optical Margin Alignment

If you have headlines and body text in the same text frame, you might want to set optical margin alignment for the text frame so the headline appears properly aligned. You can then specify that the body paragraphs ignore the optical margin alignment setting. To do this, select the paragraphs with the Type tool and choose Ignore Optical Margin from the Paragraph panel menu (Type menu).

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