Applying Kerning Automatically or Manually in Word to Control Character Spacing

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated December 28, 2021

Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021 or 365 (Windows)

Kerning can be used in Microsoft Word to increase or decrease the spacing between characters. You have the option of turning on automatic kerning or you can manually control kerning by expanding or condensing spacing.

When a font designer creates a font or typeface, spacing between characters is integrated into the font by default. Specific characters or letter pairs are spaced closer together and some are spaced farther apart. Depending on the font, certain characters may seem to be spaced too far apart.

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The goal when you apply kerning is to make text more readable and legible. Some fonts or typefaces may require kerning with some letter pairs while others may not. Kerning tends to be used most often with larger text such as a heading. However, if you apply kerning to larger text (let’s say 48 point) and then change it to a smaller size (like 24 point), you should check the kerning or character spacing you have applied as it may need to be changed. Therefore, it’s often a good idea to leave kerning until the end of the editing process.

Turning on automatic kerning to change character spacing

To turn on automatic kerning in a Word document:

  1. Select the text with the spacing between characters you want to adjust.
  2. Press Ctrl + D. You can also select the Home tab in the Ribbon and select the dialog box launcher on the bottom right corner of the Font group or right-click in the text and select Font from the drop-down menu. The Font dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Select or check the Kerning for fonts check box.
  5. Enter a font size (such as 12) in points to the right of Kerning for fonts. You can also click the up or down arrows to choose a font size. Kerning will be applied to fonts of the selected size and above.
  6. Click OK.

The Font dialog box appears as follows with Kerning for fonts (automatic kerning) turned on:

Font dialog box in Microsoft Word with kerning turned on.

Applying manual kerning using expanded or condensed spacing

To adjust spacing between characters manually, you will need to change Spacing settings:

  1. Select the text with the spacing between characters you want to adjust.
  2. Press Ctrl + D. You can also select the Home tab in the Ribbon and select the dialog box launcher on the bottom right corner of the Font group or right-click in the text and select Font from the drop-down menu. The Font dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Deselect or uncheck the Kerning for fonts check box.
  5. Beside Spacing, select Expanded (to increase the space between characters) or Condensed (to decrease the space between characters) from the drop-down menu.
  6. In the By box to the right of spacing, click the up or down arrows to increase or decrease the amount, in points, by which the text is expanded or condensed.
  7. Click OK.

The Font dialog box appears as follows with options for Normal, Expanded or Condensed spacing:

Font dialog box with standard, expanded and condensed spacing.

In some other programs, this type of spacing is called tracking. It’s typically a better idea to expand text rather than condense it. You also should avoid text being too loose or too tight as the text can be difficult to read for those with vision impairments or cognitive disabilities.

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Summary
How to Use Kerning in Microsoft Word to Adjust Letter Spacing
Article Name
How to Use Kerning in Microsoft Word to Adjust Letter Spacing
Description
Kerning can be used in Microsoft Word to increase or decrease the spacing between characters. You have the option of turning on automatic kerning or you can manually control kerning by expanding or condensing spacing.
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Avantix Learning

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