Styling Your Text To Aid Newsletter Readability

A newsletter is a great way for you, as a business, to communicate with your customers. Your newsletter offers an opportunity to informally talk with and reward clients for their custom with high-quality content, rather than directly selling your products or services.

How well you present this content depends on the readability of your newsletter's text. The easier it is to read your words, the better you'll communicate with readers and the value of your newsletter will increase.

Leading, tracking and kerning all affect the ease with which words are seen and read.

Changing the leading enables you to alter the amount of space between lines of text. Often, desktop publishing packages set the default leading at around 120%, so copy sized at 10pt will automatically have leading set at 12pt.

However, slight changes can make your words much easier on the eye. The general consensus is that white space between lines equates to good readability (see Line Spacing), but this depends on variables such as typeface and how a typeface is formatted.

For example, body copy set in a bolder typeface may create an overbearing impression which is harsher on the eye. So, increasing the leading slightly above the default creates some 'breathing space' which is easier to read.

However, a passage of text set in a light typeface can be just as strenuous on the eye because it doesn't have sufficient presence on the page. In this case, reducing leading just below the default should make text easier to read.

Readability can also suffer when lines of text are too long because readers struggle to differentiate between them. But if your layout requires it, leading will create space and improve readability.

When a typeface is designed, characters have a specific width that separates them and prevents them from touching each other. Tracking will universally alter these spaces across entire passages of text.

For example, your characters and words might appear to be too close or too far apart in a large body of text thus weakening readability. Tracking can be increased or reduced to suit.

Whether your characters and words are too close or too far apart depends on the typeface you're using.

Blocks of sans serif text such as Arial or Verdana, with their harsh lines and functional aesthetic, can sometimes need 'airing out'. By increasing tracking you'll improve the readability.

For script, or even serif fonts such as Shelby or Bodoni, the curls and serifs help to lead the reader's eye from character to character and word to word. In this case, too much of an increase in tracking will only detract from readability.

Commonly confused with tracking, kerning is the spacing between characters. However, rather than being applied across an entire passage of text, it is used to adjust the space between any two characters.

Character widths are set by the typeface's designer, but until the typeface is used, it's impossible to know how each and every combination of characters will look.

For this reason, you may discover an irregular space between two characters. Such spaces will be more prominent in larger text such as headers and subheads.

Kerning can be used to manually increase or reduce space in keeping with the rest of the text, which will improve readability and maintain consistency.

Leave them in and readers may spot these irregular spaces. You don't want your newsletter to look 'amateurish', so it's useful to tidy up the spaces.

Why are these three aspects of typography important?
Leading, tracking and kerning can improve the readability of whatever you're communicating in your newsletter, whether it's an offer, a solution to a problem or an insight into your business.

There isn't any right or wrong answer when it comes to the adjustments you make. But paying attention to them can optimise the customer's reading experience, making communication clearer and, potentially, more successful.