Word and letter spacing

We showed the children four letter spacing and four word spacing variants. More children noticed differences in letter spacing than differences in word spacing. Of the 24 children in the sample, 22 could see differences in letter spacing.

12 children thought that the very tight setting looked the most difficult to read. They thought that the tight spacing made the type look darker, thicker or smaller: '[tight spacing is] most difficult, squashed together, you cannot see what the words say'; '[tight] is most difficult [the words are] stuck together'.

10 children (plus one who thought that both wide and very wide looked easiest) thought that the very wide setting looked easiest to read.

Letter spacing: very tightLetter spacing: very tight

Letter spacing: very wide


Perceptions about word spacing were less conclusive. Of the 24 children who talked about their preferences only 13 could see any differences.

Of these 13, 3 thought the tight spacing was the easiest to read: '[tight word spacing has] small space, big writing [and is] easier to read.'

5 thought that the very wide setting was the easiest: '[the words are] wide apart [and] easiest to read'.

Word spacing: tightWord spacing: tight

Word spacing: very wideWord spacing: very wide

The same portion of text, with very tight (top) and very wide (bottom) word spacing.


You can find out more about this work in Linda Reynolds and Sue Walker (2004) 'You can't see what the words say': word spacing and letter spacing in children's reading books', Journal of Research in Reading, vol 27, no.1, pp. 87-98