White space in a document can be good and bad. In this article, we’ll discuss why white space happens and ways to reduce it.
White space can be caused by extra returns, extra space bar spaces, incorrect justification, or incorrect point size for the space provided.
Looking at your document in Preview Mode, all you can see is the white spaces between words. This is not ideal and will take from the effectiveness and impact of your design. White space is good if you are creating posters or high-impact pages in magazines, however, if the white spaces are not deliberate then they need to be removed or balanced.
Extra Returns in your Document
I find that extra returns in a document are quite common in files that come from external sources. As a designer of magazines, I receive a lot of raw files from third parties. These files have been typed by people that generally don’t generate design work but just text. Because of this, they don’t think about how they are typing and so lots of extra creep into the document.
At the end of paragraphs, there may be two or three returns. I think people do this to accentuate their point, not on purpose, but it can be irritating and needs to be then fixed by whoever is formatting the text (you and me!).
Thankfully, InDesign to the rescue. There is a quick fix, Firstly you check for multiple returns in your document. This is another great facility within InDesign, called Invisibles.
Go to – Invisibles
This will add a whole range of peculiar-looking characters to your document. Don’t worry, you can easily hide them again. They are usually pale blue in color and are easy to see where extra white space is occurring.
To remove the extra returns we’re going to look at GREP.
Let’s get techy for a minute. GREP stands for Global search for Regular Expression & Printout. The GRAP command will search for a ‘string’ in a file. It’s a UNIX – like operating system command. It’s part of a search command that looks for a particular string of characters. This pattern is known as Regular Expression.
Within InDesign, you can search for certain GREP strings and alter them to make them do something else.
So let’s take a look at how that works.
Go to Find / Change Panel
Select ‘GREP’ in the tabs.
In the Query dropdown select ‘Multiple Return to Single Return’
In the Find What tab, the text has been altered to code because we are searching in GREP.
This basically converts two or more paragraph returns to a single return.
Click on Change All
It will then confirm how many times this occurred in your document. You can decide also in this panel where you are searching (Document)
You can now take a look at your document and decide if it now looks ok.
Extra Spacebar Spaces
I find that people who are ‘return happy’ also tend to be ‘Spacebar happy’. This can cause a lot of white space within a document. Again you can only see this with Invisibles on.
Go to – Invisibles
And as before we’re going to use GREP find and change to find multi spaces within the document.
Go to Find / Change
Make sure the GREP tab is selected.
Go to the Query dropdown and this time select the ‘Multiple Space to Single Space’
In the Find What tab, it looks like a foreign language but realistically the app is doing all the hard work for you.
You don’t need to understand the code.
Again select the Search Area required. The document is good unless you know for sure you have a double space you wish to keep.
Click on Change All
Again it will tell you the number of instances changed.
Now your document should be looking a lot better. However, there are a couple more reasons where white spaces can be a problem.
There is the occasion when you have removed all offenders but your document still looks to be unruly. This is sometimes caused by placed pictures, a text wrap runaround, and justified alignment. You may find there are only two words (or even one) on a single line and the letters are widely spaced out or there is a large white gap between two words.
The quick fix for this is either move the placed image or object up or down or sideways, away from the line to allow more words onto the line, or change the alignment from justified to align left.
Changing justification is not always possible or practical. Your whole document could be justified and changing a couple of lines or a page would change your document. It also may not be a decision that you can make.
If this is the case, a workaround is possible. You can select the line in question and reduce the horizontal scale of it to force another word back onto the line, or alternatively reduce the kerning of the words to again encourage a word from the following line backward.
Incorrect Point Size
When creating a document with a lot of body text, the most important thing is that it is readable to your customer or audience.
As a graphic designer, I design a few magazines a month. Generally, the rule of thumb is – magazine print should aim to be 8-9.5pt. This can look tremendously different for different font types.
I also think your readership will decide on the size required. I generate a magazine aimed at an older generation and that magazine’s point size is 10pt.
So what I’m saying is that your pt size may well need to be adjusted if you find that you have a lot of white space. But consider how your readership will find this if you reduce it by too much.
Have a play around moving the pt size in .5 increments. It’s what’s pleasing to the eye that matters. I find the best way to do this is to Preview Mode and reduce your page view so you can see all of the pages. If you still have some noticeable white spaces (I don’t think you will) try and adjust further what I have recommended.
Your eye is drawn to white space in a document. If there is too much white space, it will distract from the message. Remove any unwanted extras and ensure that your font size and alignment are correct.
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