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Text Justification

| May 24, 2013 | 9 Comments
Justify text option

Unjustified and justified text.

In this tutorial we will discuss how to adjust settings for justified type. Tweaking word, letter and glyph spacing is a must if you want to improve the appearance and readability of your text.


First let’s go to the preferences setup of your document and make an adjustment which will help us to see the bad justification settings.

Screenshots provided and instructions are from InDesign.

Go to Preferences – Composition and click on the H&J Violations. This will mark each badly justified line of the text in yellow. The stronger the color the worst the justification of the line is. Now you will be able to see how bad is your justification.


Justify text option

H&J Violations in Preferences panel.


Now let’s go to the main justification settings panel. You can adjust these for each paragraph individually or you can adjust it in the paragraph styles panel, which is always better.

If you adjust it in Paragraph styles panel, then you can apply these settings to all paragraphs that have this style attached to.


Justify text option

Justification settings



Justification for word, letter and glyph spacing

These are the main settings that you will have to adjust. Best results are achieved by adjusting word and letter setting. You wont have to adjust the glyph settings since good results can be achieved with first two adjustments settings.


Word spacing is the space between words that results from pressing the space bar. Word Spacing values can range from 0% to 1000%; at 100%, no extra space is added between words.

You can adjust word spacing in slightly bigger amounts. I almost always add the same values for minimum and maximum. For example 75 for minimum and 125 for maximum. I leave the desired amount at default values. You will not get the best results always by setting the same amounts for minimum and maximum. Play around with the settings and you will see what works best.

Letter Spacing is the distance between letters, including kerning or tracking values. Letter Spacing values can range from ‑100% to 500%: at 0%, no space is added between letters; at 100%, an entire space width is added between the letters.

When I adjust letter spacing I adjust it in small amounts. For example -3 for minimum and +3 for maximum. There is no need to input larger amounts like in word spacing, since it will produce visible gaps between the letters.

Glyph Scaling is the width of characters (a glyph is any font character). Glyph Spacing values can range from 50% to 200%.

I never adjust this option, since all the changes can be done by letter and word spacing. Basically glyph spacing is setting its horizontal value, meaning, shrinking it or extending the glyphs.

There are no strict rules on how to adjust justification and there are no numbers that are same for each font and size.

Sometimes same font, set at the same size can produce different results on a different column widths. This is why you should first adjust your column width and font size and then adjust your justification settings.

You will have to play around with the settings and see what kind of results they produce. Always click on the Preview check mark so you can see your changes taking place as you correct the values.


Other Justification options

We know that the justified text is when the text is aligned with both edges of the column. So, each line of the text will be aligned to the edges, except the last one. There are three options for justifying last line of the text. This is called Single word justification.

  • Full Justify – This option stretches the last line across the width of the column. Avoid this option. I cannot remember that I used it ever. You can use it but then you will always have to add Flush Space at the end of every paragraph where the last line is stretched. To insert Flush Space go to Type > Insert White Space > Flush Space. But as I mentioned, avoid this option.
  • Align left – This is the option that you want to select. It is the natural way of aligning text.
  • Align center – this option can sometimes be useful, but I cannot remember that I used it. It can be useful in some short paragraphs but you should avoid it also.
  • Align right  – I also do not see the point of this option.

Last option that you want to select is Paragraph composer. There are two options. Adobe Paragraph Composer and Adobe Single Line Composer. I almost always use Paragraph composer. This will require more work around adjusting paragraph settings but you will get better results because the paragraph will look more consistent and words will be evenly spaced and with less hyphens, because Single Line Composer will use more hyphens to adjust the line spacing.


Adjusting justification settings is a must for body text that you work on. Rarely will type placed in the column fit perfectly. Justification options work hand in hand with hyphenation settings which we will cover soon in one of our tutorials.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Jerónimo Rosales says:

    Well, this is a very useful tutorial but you didnt say wich program it is that you’re using.

    By the way, I always have problem with the superscript. It would be nice to have a tutorial on that.


    • Nikola says:

      These are screenshots from InDesign. I am sure that other applications like QuarkXPress have the same settings.
      Can you explain what kind of problems you have with superscript text?!

  2. Jerónimo Rosales says:

    Well. I’m not even sure if that’t the name for it. According to my translator, superscript text is like the little numbers that you use for footnotes. Right?

    Well, my designer is always missing them, like if in the copy-paste process of the text they don’t paste. So in the “final” version superscripts just dissapear. I’m not sure if he’s doing it correctly or what’s the problem.

    He’s inserting the superscripts individually, one by one.

    • Nikola says:

      The numbers you are referring to are called subscript. Superscript are little numbers positioned on the top of the letters.
      Yes the problem can happen when he is copy pasting the text and applying paragraph style to the text to format it. Then the subscript is being erased and converted into “normal” size numbers.
      I must say I did not work that much with subscripts and superscripts. It was a long ago when I worked in book publishing house, but I cannot remember what I did to retain the subscript and superscript formatting.
      Try to check the InDesign help for this problem. If the original text is formatted and the subscript has its own style then you can change that style to your own style in InDesign.
      It is better to place the text in InDesign (File-Place) than to copy/paste it. When placing text check “Show Import Options” at the bottom of the window. This will open another window in which you can check “Preserve Style and Formatting From Text and Tables”, (this is checked by default). When you place it then you can retain its formatting styles and then you can find/replace that formatting with your own.

  3. jx says:

    ok now I’m ready for that hyphenation post.

    • Nikola says:

      You are right. Been planning to do it for some time since it is a natural continuation of justification subject. I will post it really soon. Maybe even this week.

  4. sunardi says:

    WOW! This is what I’ve been looking for. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial.

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