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When writing academic papers, whether the paper is to be read on screen or in print, a font size of 10 to 12 pt at double line spacing is a common request. When printed, white copy paper (A4 or US letter) is normally used.

I can only refer to a German source at the moment (“Erste Hilfe in Typografie” by Willberg and Forssmann) which compares 8 different fonts in different styles on four different papers: In this comparison it becomes evident that some fonts handle certain paper colorings and spacings better than others.

I ask this question because I recently received a paper (pdf) for proofreading. This paper is set in Garamond with double spacing, and while Garamond is a beautiful font, the whiteness of the screen with the increased line spacing seems a bit strong for it.

With that in mind, which fonts will work particularly well given the above parameters?


edit: Here is an example document. The LaTeX code which produces it is as follows:

\documentclass[10pt]{article}
\usepackage{setspace}
\usepackage{ebgaramond}
\usepackage{lipsum}
\usepackage{a4wide}
\doublespacing
\begin{document}
\raggedright
\lipsum
\end{document}

Please note that I’m only trying to reproduce the document, the font is different (it appears thinner on the paper, more grey), and the original was created in Word on MacOS.

Jpeg created from PDF

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    Given it's a visual question could you attach a screenshot of the paper? – Ovaryraptor Oct 25 '17 at 15:27
  • @Ovaryraptor I thought about that. It is an unpublished draft of an academic paper, so I cannot display it here. I prepared a LaTeX example which produced a similar result, but since I do not have the exact same Garamond font, I decided not to include it in the question. If it is okay to use a different font than what the question is actually about, I can include it. – Philipp Oct 25 '17 at 15:50
  • @Ovaryraptor Since I believe that what I described in the question can still be seen in my mock-up file, I added the example. – Philipp Oct 25 '17 at 16:22
  • I'm confused why it looks more grey when printed. Is that standard with all printers you print from? I was under the impression that black text always printed full black. And is that part of your problem? Could you explain? – LateralTerminal Oct 25 '17 at 16:30
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    No font benefits from double line-spacing for longer pieces of text. The effect that you’re seeing here, with disjointed and flailing lines trying (and failing) to control the paper, usually kicks in somewhere around 1.6 or 1.7 with most fonts. Beyond that, there isn’t much you can do but hold your nose. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 25 '17 at 17:10
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Line spacing is a great deal like column width, kerning, or tracking in that the goal is to allow the reader to move fluidly from one line to the next. Or to create enough visual separation so the reader mentally separates pieces of text and compartmentalizes them subconsciously.

It's not impossible that one goal would be to actually slow the reader down a bit and make them use a bit more effort to read. This can often be seen in more "art" style posters and one-offs though, not in books or white papers.

For books or large amounts of text, the goal is most often a smooth, fluid, uninterrupted read without any design "hiccups" that force the reader to stop and find their place again. The reader should be able to reach the end of one line that immediately be able to jump to the start of the next line. Reading is rhythmic -- word, word, word, word, word, line, word, word, word, word, word, line. etc.

There's no hard and fast rule about what is a correct line height for any given typeface. And every typeface may benefit from line spacing adjustments given the type size, audience, and intention.

Most (Adobe) software, by default, sets the line spacing at 120% of the type size. I have no real clue what Word's 1, 1.5, 2, etc, actually measure at. I don't use Word for much actual work.

For large areas of text, I tend to adjust it to minimum of 140% as a default. But that's merely my preference. I will then, at times, adjust further if I feel the rhythm is being rushed, or it's not smooth. This is far more of an aesthetic feeling than practical absolute. The more line spacing you can provide large "walls" of text, the less overwhelming it will seem to the reader at a glance.

In the end, any line spacing is fine if it works - whether it's 300% or 100% doesn't matter as long as there's a smooth rhythm to the reading. What does and does not work can only be determined by solving that rhythmic problem in a given design project with given text and a goal in mind.

Type size, line spacing, column width, color, typeface, all lead to how readable a piece is and how a readers eye "tracks" across a design. Line spacing is just one aspect to consider when designing a piece. There's really no way I'm aware of to give exact values based on a chosen typeface.


I would point out that in your sample, I don't find the line spacing bad. What I find essentially unforgivable is the fact that the line spacing is equal to the paragraph spacing and there's no first line indentation for paragraphs. There's absolutely no indication, looking at the left side of the text, of when a new paragraph starts. If using a larger line spacing, paragraphs should have a larger space between them that is greater than the line spacing, in addition to first line indentation. These two simple adjustments would make reading that sample a great deal easier.

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Double line spacing for academic papers is not intended to look ‘nice’. The purpose of the double line spacing is to allow space for comments and is a throw back to when papers would have been printed (or typed) out and commented on by hand, with a pencil or (red) pen.

If you are viewing / commenting on a paper on screen and you find the white space distracting or hard on your eyes, then you could extract the text and reformat it. PDF comments do not require or occupy any space on the page.

As for which fonts look right (or at least less wrong) with double spacing, that’s totally subjective.

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