Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Changing Kerning.

Changing Kerning

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated September 14, 2019)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


When a font is designed, a certain amount of space is designated for inter-character spacing. This spacing determines how close adjacent characters are to each other. Unfortunately, not all characters appear the same width when read on a printed page. Depending on the characters, this can cause an illusion that two characters are spaced too far apart, when in reality they follow the standard spacing conventions for the typeface. This problem normally appears when the left character in a pair has a stroke (a line) that travels diagonally from left to right.

Kerning is a typographical term describing the process of moving letters closer together, in an effort to overcome the illusion of too much space between letters. This makes the text both more appealing and more readable. In Word, kerning can be adjusted either automatically or manually. To change kerning automatically, perform the following steps:

  1. Select the text whose kerning you want to adjust.
  2. Choose the Tools option from the Font menu. Word displays the Font dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Character Spacing tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Character Spacing tab of the Font dialog box.

  5. Click on the Kerning for Fonts check box.
  6. Adjust the character point size to indicate when Word should start adjusting kerning.
  7. Click on OK.

In most cases, this type of kerning will be acceptable. There may be instances, however, when you want to manually adjust the kerning between two characters. For instance, you might want to create some special effect for the characters. In these cases, you can manually adjust kerning by following these steps:

  1. Select the text whose kerning you want to adjust.
  2. Choose the Tools option from the Font menu. Word displays the Font dialog box.
  3. Display the Character Spacing tab.
  4. Clear the Kerning for Fonts check box.
  5. In the Spacing pull-down list, select Expanded or Condensed, depending on whether you want to move the characters further apart or closer together.
  6. In the By box to the right of the Spacing pull-down list, indicate the amount of space (in points) by which the character spacing should be adjusted.
  7. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1130) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Changing Kerning.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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