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Working with Paragraph Rules

If you want a paragraph to have a line (technically called a rule ) to appear above or below a paragraph, you might be tempted to draw a line using the Pen or the Line tool. Unfortunately if the text reflows, a drawn line does not travel with the text. You could also paste the line into the text as an inline graphic, but there are limits to how much you can control those lines.

Paragraph rules allow you to create lines that travel with the paragraph and that can be applied as part of style sheets.


  • It may seem like more work to use paragraph rules, but they save you time in the long run.

True Story

When I first started learning page layout software, I used the art director's computer at the advertising agency where I worked. I stayed after hours to explore the programs and create documents.

When I saw the command Rules in the menu, I figured that was where they kept the laws governing the program. Since I didn't want to mess up the art director's machine, I never chose the command.

It was several years later (and several horrible jobs without paragraph rules) that I found out what the Rules were.

To apply paragraph rules:

  1. Select the text.

  2. Choose Paragraph Rules from the Paragraph palette submenu. This opens the Paragraph Rules dialog box (Figure 6).

    Figure 6

    The Paragraph Rules dialog box controls the appearance of the paragraph rules.

  3. Set the options as follows:

    • Choose Rule Above or Rule Below from the pop-up list to specify whether the rule appears before or after the selected paragraph.

    • Check Rule On to turn the rule on.

    • Set an amount for the weight (or thickness) of the rule.

    • Check Overprint Stroke to set the ink to overprint.

    • Use the Color pop-up list to apply a color to the rule.


  • Rules are colored only with named colors from the Swatches palette.

You can create many special effects with paragraph rules. One of the most common is to superimpose text inside paragraph rules to create the effect of reversed text. Most reversed text is white type inside a black background. However, any light color can be used inside any dark background (Figure 7).

Figure 7 

A paragraph rule can create the effect of reversed text.

To apply reverse text using rules:

  1. Apply a light color to a line of type.

  2. Open the Paragraph Rules dialog box.

  3. Create a Rule Below.

  4. Set the weight of the rule to a point size large enough to enclose the text. For instance, if the text is 12 points, the rule should be at least 12 points.


  • If you have more than one line of text, you need to calculate the size of the leading times the number of lines.

  1. Set a negative number for the offset value.


  • The offset amount should be slightly less than the weight of the rule. For instance a rule of 14 points might take an offset of -11 points.

  1. Check Preview so you can see the effect of the weight and offset settings you choose (Figure 8).

    Figure 8

    A sample dialog box to create the effect of reversed text using a paragraph rule.

  2. Adjust the weight and offset, if necessary.

  3. Click OK to apply the rule.

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