Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

Working with Text

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

#24 Composing Type

Many of InDesign's character and paragraph formatting options are familiar to you from using a word processor—or even your email program. But what really sets InDesign apart is its superior method of text composition—of adjusting spacing and hyphenation to achieve evenly spaced type in a paragraph. The method is called the Adobe Paragraph Composer, and it works by considering spacing, hyphenation, and line breaks in all the lines in a paragraph in relation to each other. By contrast, the Adobe Single-line Composer and most other programs consider only one line at a time ( Figure 24a ).


Figure 24a Although the difference between the Adobe Paragraph Composer and the Adobe Single-line Composer is subtle, the single-line method is more likely to produce inconsistent spacing. For example, at left, notice the spacing in the second line from the bottom—there are some gaps between words. At right, with the Adobe Paragraph Composer in use, you'll see more consistent spacing overall and particularly in the second-to-last line.

The three primary factors affecting composition—Hyphenation, Justification, and Composer—are paragraph formats and they are discussed here.


InDesign gives you far more control over automatic hyphenation than just turning it on and off for a paragraph. You can specify a limit to the number of lines in a row that end in hyphens, whether capitalized words can be hyphenated, the minimum number of letters a word must have to be hyphenated, the number of letters that must precede and follow a hyphen, and more. While these decisions impact the look of the text, they also have editorial implications, so you may want to set them with the help of an editor. For example, whether capitalized words should be hyphenated is often covered in the publisher's style guide and is not at the designer's discretion.

To set hyphenation, first select paragraphs with the Type tool. Then, choose Hyphenation from the Paragraph palette's menu (Type > Paragraph). You can also choose Hyphenation from the Control palette's menu when the Paragraph panel is displayed. The Hyphenation Settings dialog box ( Figure 24b ) lets you customize settings for the selected paragraphs. To see how changes affect the paragraphs, check the Preview box.


Figure 24b The Hyphenation Settings dialog box provides a slider for striking a balance between Better Spacing and Fewer Hyphens.

Setting Justification

The Justification settings in InDesign control how spacing is adjusted in justified text, the leading, and which composition method is used. To set hyphenation, first select paragraphs with the Type tool. Then, choose Justification from the Paragraph palette's menu (Type > Paragraph). In the Justification dialog box ( Figure 24c ), be sure to check Preview to judge how your settings affect the text.

  • Word Spacing, Letter Spacing, and Glyph Scaling: These fields control how spacing is adjusted and how characters are scaled when justifying text. (Therefore, these values do not apply to paragraphs that are right, left, or center aligned—only justified.)
  • Auto Leading: This field controls the amount of space between lines in the selected paragraphs—if they use auto leading. The value is a percentage of the type size in use—so if the Font Size is 10 points, and Auto Leading is 120%, the Leading is set to 12 points.
  • Single Word Justification: In justified text, if a single word falls on a line, you can specify how that word is handled by choosing an option from the Single Word Justification menu. Your options are to fully justify the word—possibly leading to giant gaps within the word—align it with the left margin, center it, or align it with the right margin.
  • Justification: The dialog box also lets you select the Adobe Paragraph Composer or the Adobe Single-line Composer from the Composer menu.

Figure 24c The Justification dialog box lets you fine-tune the spacing within justified paragraphs.

Choosing a Composition Method

When paragraphs are selected with the Type tool, you can choose the Adobe Paragraph Composer or the Adobe Single-line Composer from the Paragraph palette's menu. You can also choose a composition method from the Composer menu in the Justification dialog box. The Adobe Paragraph Composer generally leads to better spacing, particularly in justified paragraphs.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account