Typography for Presentations – Text Layout

This is the third of a series of posts on text in presentations; layout and line spacing are discussed.

Text Layout

As I noted in an earlier post, presentations use short blocks of text that may not be grammatical paragraphs or even sentences. “Layout” determines the appearance of these blocks of text on a slide. Here are my guidelines on layout:

  • Use relatively compact blocks of text:

  • Use left aligned (“ragged right”) blocks:

  • A word by itself in the last line of a paragraph is called an orphan.  In print, orphans are avoided since they create too much space at the end of a paragraph. This is an issue with text pages but not in presentations using relatively narrow blocks (shorter lines).
  • You can use End-of-line (shift-enter) to approximately shape text around images or other objects. PowerPoint, unlike some other publishing software, does not provide this as a layout option.

Line Spacing

The space between lines of text can be adjusted.  This is useful for fine-tuning the appearance of text, grouping and separating paragraphs for better comprehension and dealing with text within shapes (the subject of a later post).

There are two kinds of spacing available:  “line spacing” that affects every line in a block and spacing that occurs before and/or after a paragraph mark.

There are 4 ways to specify line spacing:  single, 1.5 lines, double, “multiple,” and “exactly.”  For the multiple option, you set spacing as multiples (or fractions) of the single line default. The “exactly” option requires that you provide a value in points. I prefer the “multiple” option since it “scales” with changes in overall font size (as contrasted with the “exactly” option).

To my eye, the default line spacing (1) looks a little “open,” so I often use .9 spacing.  Spacing of .8 begins to look a little crowded:

Before/after spacing accepts only a point value (unfortunately). Using before/after spacing is more flexible than the common practice of inserting paragraph markers and is generally better practice.

Before/after spacing can be used to clarify the organization of text; this example compares a default layout to one (on the right) that uses .9 line spacing and “after” spacing to visually separate the two topics:

The next in this series of posts on text in presentations covers bullets (shudder!)


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