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I asked a similar question on the LaTeX stack exchange and they suggested that I come here.

Many typographers such as Matthew Butterick and R. Schlicht recommend using increased letterspacing between capital letters.

Does the increased letterspacing apply (a) only between the capital letters themselves or (b) does it also apply to the space between the capital letters?

Here is a visual comparison:

2 Answers 2

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I would say that increasing letterspacing between uppercase letters also should include increasing the word spacing. The other approach is flawed.

Consider this example:

In the second sentence I increase spacing between all characters, including the word spaces.

In the third sentence I leave the word spaces unchanged.

I think the problem with the latter is pretty obvious. You reach a point where the spaces between letters are the same as the spaces between words and you just get one long word. Beyond that point it gets really strange as the spaces between letters become larger than the spaces between words.

I don't know about LaTeX but when you increase Tracking in InDesign it includes word spaces by default. Leaving the word spaces unaltered requires an extra effort and I haven't even thought about this being a possibility before you asked.

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There is no context for this included in your question.

Are you using this as a publication for academia? Or a poster for your local band? A blog? An advertisement? Every different use can have different criteria for an answer. Designers will often change the tracking between letters and/or adjust the space between words depending on usage, content, surrounding text and graphics, different visual intents, etc.

Also the chosen font can have a great impact on choices about spacing. A serif font can require more spacing while a sans font can be closer spaced (or vice versa). Is this a headline sitting by itself or is this capitalized text surrounded by other text and graphics? I suggest that rather than having a “rule” about adding space between all caps one should focus more on specific design layouts and what intent you are trying to convey. Is it simply for readability or do you want to emphasise something? In certain circumstances yes, space out those caps a bit; in others, tighten them up a bit.

These choices are all very context-oriented decisions and to have a “rule” about whether to and how much to space all caps is only a limitation. Best to make a decision about this with the overall layout in mind and a visual check of spacing, balance, and over all flow being the factors in your spacing decision.

Personally, I find that when using all caps I prefer the spacing between words to be more important than the spacing between the individual letters. Otherwise a sentence tends to look like one long word. Again, this is very specific to the application.

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