Whitespace in design

The fine art of white space in documents, web pages, and more is an art form with many, many rules. White space, also known as negative space, is the empty space between elements (text, graphics) in a design. White space is used to improve legibility and to add balance, focus and impact.

The combination of different techniques becomes complex and it is important to understand each and use them correctly.


Margins comprise the area at the top, bottom, left and right of the page in which text will not normally appear; they are the blank space around the edge of the page. Margins can be set per section in a document.

Vertical and horizontal alignment between left and right margins.



The Space bar is used exclusively to add one space between consecutive words. There should never be 2 consecutive spaces in any document (double-spacing is an old and outdated practice). Normal rules apply as to where spaces should appear. Watch specifically for the following:

There should never be spaces:

  • between a word and a full stop, comma, colon or semi-colon
    This is a sentence . This is a sentence.
  • immediately inside opening or closing brackets of any kind:
    ( some words ) (some words)

Read the post on checking spacing in a Word document for more.


Tabs should be used to create horizontal space where one space is not sufficient. Custom tabs should be created where default tabs of 1,27 cm are not suitable.

Image and Table alignment

By default images and tables occupy the full width of a document regardless of their width — that is to say that text before or after a table or image will be placed above or below those elements, not next to them (this principle exists in HTML as well).

This default can be over-ridden using wrapping.

Text Wrapping


A common error in word processing documents is the misuse of the Enter key to create vertical whitespace.

Line spacing

Line spacing is the space between the lines in a paragraph.

Paragraph spacing

Paragraph spacing is the space between paragraphs or between paragraphs and headings.

Paragraph spacing between paragraphs, and spacing between a paragraph and the preceding heading, should always be greater than line spacing within paragraphs.

The space between a sub-heading and the previous paragraph should be greater than the space between that same heading and the paragraph that follows it.


Documents are broken into pages and sections using a variety of breaks.


Cell margins and spacing can be used in Microsoft Word in the same way that cellpadding and cellspacing are used in HTML tables. The settings are at table level.

Tabs can be used in tables at cell level, but you must use CNTRL+TAB as pressing the tab keys moves the cursor to the next cell.

Line spacing and paragraph spacing can be implemented in tables at row or cell level.

Vertical and horizontal alignment can be set within cells at row or cell level.


Text can be arranged in columns. Spacing between columns can be modified and column breaks can be used to control the flow of text in columns.

Text boxes

A text box is incredibly helpful when you want to place text or other content outside of the normal flow of the document. Text boxes can be formatted and placed.

Drop cap

This effect entails making the first letter of a paragraph considerably larger than the rest of the letter in the paragraph. The first letter of this article is a “T” to which the Drop cap effect has been applied.

Word offers a number of options:

  • lines to drop
  • distance from text
  • in the margin or wrapped
  • font style

By foxbeefly

PHP / MySQL Developer. HTML, CSS and some JavaScript.

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