space above & belowUse liberally

If you hadn’t fig­ured it out yet, I’m a big fan of white space. On the out­side edge of the page (see page mar­gins). Be­tween cap­i­tal let­ters (see let­terspac­ing). Within ta­ble cells (see ta­bles). Be­tween para­graphs (see space be­tween para­graphs).

And now, above and be­low a head­ing, as a form of em­pha­sis. To show you what I mean, let me ask you some­thing. DO YOU FIND THIS TO BE AN INVIT­ING FORM OF EMPHASIS?

Or do you pre­fer this?

Well, there you have it.

Space above and be­low works on the page for the same rea­son a dra­matic pause works when you’re talk­ing. You draw a lis­tener’s at­ten­tion through con­trast. Loud­ness is an ef­fec­tive form of con­trast. But so is silence.

Like­wise with the writ­ten word. For­mat­ting tools like point size, color, and bold or italic have a role to play. But care­less ty­pog­ra­phers mate them in­dis­crim­i­nately, breed­ing noise. Space above and be­low gives you em­pha­sis with­out adding a sin­gle mark to the page.

How to set space above and below

Word Right-click in the text and se­lect ParagraphIndents and Spacing. Un­der Spacing, in the boxes next to Before and After, en­ter the measurements.

Pages ViewShow Toolbar (or op­tion + ⌘ + t) → Format but­ton → Style pane → un­der Spacing, in the boxes la­beled Before Paragraph and After Paragraph, en­ter the measurements.

CSS Use the mar­gin-top and mar­gin-bot­tom properties

How much space to add is a judg­ment call. Se­man­ti­cally, head­ings re­late to the text that fol­lows, not the text be­fore. Thus you’ll prob­a­bly want the space be­low to be smaller than the space above, so the head­ing is vi­su­ally closer to the text it introduces.

There is an up­per limit. For in­stance, on a web­site, you wouldn’t want to add so much space be­fore a head­ing that it dis­ap­pears be­low the bot­tom of the browser.

by the way
  • If you’re al­ready us­ing space be­tween para­graphs, the space you add around a head­ing should be larger, to cre­ate a distinction.