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Basic Justification Table

The table below shows that combining the spacing sizes will give you a lot of flexibility. You may well find it useful if, for instance, an En is too wide. Consult the table and it will tell you that, together, a Mid and a Thin will give you a space slightly narrower than an En. If that's still too wide, the list will tell you that the next thing to try is a pair of Thins, and so on.

Starting with the thinnest and using only:

Thin, Mid, Thick, En (Nut) and Em (Mutton) spaces.

Muttons & Nuts
An Em is usually taken to mean the same as the point size so, for 18pt type, an Em is simply 18pt wide.

An En is half an Em. For that 18pt type, it would be 9pt wide.

An Em of no specific size will deafault to pica. A pica is equal to 12pt. This default 12pt pica Em is the sort often used to describe the length of leads, rules, furniture etc.

Ems and Ens were originally named after letters which were usually the same width; M and n. Some people still define an Em as equal to the width of an M, but there are far too many exceptions to make that ‘traditonal’ definition useful to the compositor.

You'll notice that the words Em and En sound alike. In a busy composing room the words are almost indistinguishable, which is why they were given nicknames: Mutton and Nut.

An easy peasy way to remember that an En is half an Em is that the letter n looks very much like half an m!
Hair Spaces
Unlike normal spacing, the width of hair spaces isn't relative to the size of the type; a 1pt hair space will be 1pt wide whether it's 8pt or 36pt tall. The 1pt size is made of brass and the ½pt size is traditionally made of copper. They're most useful for setting sizes 14pt upwards.
  • Thin
  • Mid
  • Thick
  • Thin + thin
  • Mid + thin
  • En
  • Thick + thin
  • Thick + mid
  • Thin + thin + thin
  • Mid + thin + thin
  • Thick + thick
  • En + thin
  • Thick + thin + thin
  • Thin + thin + thin + thin
  • En + thick
  • Mid + thin + thin + thin
  • Thick + thick + thin
  • En + thin + thin
  • Thick + thick + mid
  • Thick + thin + thin + thin
  • En + mid + thin
  • Thick + mid + thin + thin
  • Em

The table stops at 1 Em wide but it could continue indefinitely, and using hair spaces increases your options even further (wait until you're confident with the sizes above before you try those).

We were sent a much more extensive table on which the above is based but we can't remember who it was from! Let us know if it was you and we'll give you a credit.

Print out this basic justification table, with a quick reference guide to spacing sizes along side. Click to start download:

Justification and Spacing Guide, 44kb PDF

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