A small preamble: (mostly technical, can be skipped) I am a mathematician and prepare my documents with LaTeX. The documents made in LaTeX usually have very distinctive look because of the CM font (I hate it), widows/orphans, double spaces after fullstop and some other things that are purely unprofessional.

The one package to solve some of the issues is microtype, which among other features makes hanging punctuation and character protrusion available. The protrusion is set by giving two numbers: the promille of the character width it should be protruded on the left/right margin, e. g. A={1000,500} means that the letter "A" would be fully protruded if a line starts with it, and by half if a line ends with it.

The question itself: how should I choose the amount of protrusion for characters? Here are some stupid, to show the functionality, examples:

enter image description here

A is not protruded, C by 20%, apostroph and (by 100%, and << by 50%.

In particular, I would like to know if

serifs should be protruded (on both sides?):

enter image description here

letters with round shapes should be protruded (on both sides?):

enter image description here

brackets and quotation marks should be protruded:

enter image description here

punctuation should hang on the right side:

enter image description here

But I want to know also some general tactics for correct settings.

  • 2
    For which language and country? These things are far from being universal.
    – xenoid
    Aug 16, 2017 at 23:23
  • @xenoid I am interested in english and russian. Aug 17, 2017 at 6:10
  • Your examples are not stupid. They help illustrate your question and are relevant.
    – Stan
    Aug 17, 2017 at 16:07
  • LaTeX does not use double spaces after a full stop: see tex.stackexchange.com/a/4726 (where you can also find an easy way to get single spaces). As the discussion there indicates, there is disagreement about which practice is best for marking the end of a sentence; it’s not a matter of professional vs. unprofessional. As for widows and orphans, they aren’t features of LaTeX, but signs that it’s being used badly.
    – Thérèse
    Aug 22, 2017 at 15:04
  • @Thérèse books are usually typeset with the same spaces after period and between words. Widows and orphans appear in LaTeX quite often. I dodn't mean that you cannot get a good output with LaTeX, I meant that the default settings do not provide the output that can be called "professional". Aug 22, 2017 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


The overriding "rule" for typographic practice is to do what looks good to you.

There is no "should." There is no judge nor jury. It is a study, practice, and art.

Typographers strive for optical rather than mechanical alignment.

Hanging punctuation and such is used to achieve a heightened visual effect of aligned body text margins.

The same is true for the lettering that "sits" on the baseline. Some letters sit squarely on the baseline while others don't to give the appearance of regularity when viewed in toto.

You can adjust the position to have an "o" that is tangent to the baseline but it will appear to "rise" if set that way in the context of the line. The bowl of the "a" is the same.

  • But are there any specific recommendations? I know that the circle looks smaller than square, if they have the same height, thats why letter "o" is usually a bit descending below the baseline and a bit exceding the x-height. There must be some rules about (, <<, or quotation marks. Aug 17, 2017 at 16:35
  • e. g. here[graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/a/57628/92949] some tactics are quite universal are they valid? Aug 17, 2017 at 16:40
  • @MichaelFreimann Welcome to the creative aspects of typography. Universal "tactics" are referred to as typographic "practice" or "conventions." Lazy, less creative typographers copy what they see or what the software defaults give them. There are no "rules" to hide behind.
    – Stan
    Aug 17, 2017 at 16:57

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