Leading - Origins

Origins

The word comes from lead strips that were put between set lines. When type was set by hand in printing presses, slugs or strips of lead of appropriate thicknesses were inserted between lines of type to add vertical space, to fill available space on the page.

Text set "solid" (no leading) appears cramped, with ascenders almost touching descenders from the previous line. The lack of white space between lines makes it difficult for the eye to track from one line to the next, makes rivers more obvious, and hampers readability.

The following block of text has default leading:

Typography (Greek: typos "form", graphein "to write") is the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type using a combination of typeface styles, point sizes, line lengths, line leading, character spacing, and word spacing to produce typeset artwork in physical or digital form.

This block of text set with 50% leading is easier to read:

Typography (Greek: typos "form", graphein "to write") is the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type using a combination of typeface styles, point sizes, line lengths, line leading, character spacing, and word spacing to produce typeset artwork in physical or digital form.

This block of text at 100% leading is harder to read and makes less efficient use of vertical page space:

Typography (Greek: typos "form", graphein "to write") is the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type using a combination of typeface styles, point sizes, line lengths, line leading, character spacing, and word spacing to produce typeset artwork in physical or digital form.

In CSS, leading is implemented by creating a difference between the content height and the value of the line-height property. Half the leading is called the half-leading. User agents center glyphs vertically in an inline box, which adds half-leading on the top and bottom. For example, if a piece of text is '12px' high and the line-height value is '14px', 2pxs of extra space should be added: 1px above and 1px below the letters. (This applies to empty boxes as well, as if the empty box contained an infinitely narrow letter.)

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