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Leading: Making your copy a comfortable read

March 4, 2015

So you’ve proof read, edited and re-edited your copy, but rather than rush it online and consider it ‘job done’, your next step should be to make it as comfortable reading as possible so people stick with and concentrate on your message.

Equally as important as to how many characters wide your columns are, is the consideration given to the vertical space between lines, this is known in type setting as the ‘leading’.

The term leading comes from the days of setting type by hand, lead strips were placed between blocks of type to increase the vertical height and as a result, legibility.

Correct leading isn’t just about being aesthetically pleasing, anything that distracts the reader from a natural rhythm of reading makes it harder for them to relax and to concentrate, and it’s more likely that people will tire from and abandon your fantastic copy.

A smooth read helps the meaning of your message sink in.

Getting the leading right

As a simple rule, if lines are too closely set, a reader’s eye will take in the neighbouring above and below lines at the same time, impairing reading speed.

If the leading is too high and the lines have too much vertical space, it’s more difficult for a reader’s eye to link up to the next line, lines appear isolated and your article will be tiring to read.

See the following examples of too closely set, about right and too generous leading –

Leading example


Considerations for implementing online


The property to use is ‘line-height’ which can be applied to the body, the p tag and any other standard HTML element.

Inline CSS/email support

All modern mobile email clients and most desktop clients have good support for the line-height property; however some issues may arise when trying to use this property to compress the leading in Outlook 2007. If you require Outlook 2007 support, use px values that are greater than the font-size used in your copy.

Responsive design

One fixed line-height/font-size combination is unlikely to be the optimal fit for every screen size/device your content will be viewed on, so be sure to test and use media queries to optimise your content’s legibility across different screen sizes.



Müller-Brockmann, J. (1985). Grid Systems in graphic design. Stuttgart: Hatje [u.a.].

Posted by Joel Jarman
Email Design, General, Tip of the month, Writing copy

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