Tracking and kerning are all about the spacing between words and letters.
Tracking adjusts the uniform spacing between words, affecting how close or far apart the words or the letters within the words are. By changing this spacing, tracking will also affect line lengths.
Kerning adjusts the spacing between specific individual character pairs, pushing them apart or pulling them in — you’ll have noticed character pairs that are too far apart in your reading. When that “w” doesn’t seem to be part of the rest of the word.
Tracking is the overall spacing tool while kerning adjusts the space between individual characters — it’s all about the visual.
As much fun as it is to play with tracking, it’s better if you work with your text, edit the sentences to eliminate the widows and orphans before you start mucking about with tracking. I can’t emphasize enough that tracking can mess with the formatting of your document, reduce or increase the number of pages which can throw off indexing, the location of any images, and more.
Do NOT use tracking to force your text to fit. It’s purpose is to make the text easier to read.
Once you’ve edited as many of those lone words or sentences as you can, then adjust the tracking.
Adjusting the kerning should be done at the very end when you have a final document and the tracking has been adjusted.
While most software programs have automatic kerning built in, there are times when you will need to manually adjust character pairs. Most fonts have had their character pairs adjusted, however, in real life, there is always something that doesn’t quite look right. It may be combining an italic letter with a roman quotation mark, bumping up a capital L up next to a capital T, or numbers that appear too far apart that are all examples of character pairs that may need kerning.
Formatting Tips started…
…as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with words that should have been capitalized or italicized, in quotes or not, what should be spelled out and what can be abbreviated, proper styling for the Latin names of plants, the proper formatting and usage of titles and more in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this style tip with friends by tweeting it.
|Kerning & Tracking|
|Credit to: Felici, 165-166|
|Tracking||Definition: Adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters, words, or documents using a consistent degree of increase (or sometimes decrease) of space between letters to affect density and texture in a line or block of text.|
|Tracking is useful to:
Rule: Increase or decrease the degree of adjustment by as unnoticeable amount as possible to keep it from looking obvious.
Fig. 1. The letters on top have been loosened up while those on the bottom have been pulled in.
Fig. 2. Five examples of paragraph tracking with each paragraph block the same width. The top left is the original tracking. The middle top was reduced by 1 space. The bottom left has been reduced quite a lot while the middle bottom is much looser. The block on the far right is justified and uses the same spacing as the middle top.
|Kerning||Definition: The process of adjusting the spacing between individual letter forms (usually specific letter pairs) that, because of the relationship of their respective shapes, would appear to be badly spaced even when spaced normally.|
|Most quality fonts are well-kerned with the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters having a visually similar area.
The most common problems are “combinations of upper- and lowercase characters, pairs containing punctuation”, and italic-roman combinations (Felici, 166).
As of 2003:
Rule: Increase or decrease space between a pair of characters when they are too far apart visually or they overlap.
|Problem Letters Include:|
10 expert tips for kerning type at Creative Bloq.
Ilene Strizver’s post at Fonts.com on “Spacing and Kerning, Part 2” is informative.