Kerning is a simple way to add some design and flair to your documents in Microsoft Word.

What is Kerning for fonts?

When I tell people about my use of Kerning for fonts in Microsoft Word, the first response I get is: what even is Kerning for fonts? I’m finding that not many people use it or even know what it is. So, today, I’m here to talk about Kerning for fonts.

The literal dictionary definition of kerning (no capitalization) is that it is the spacing between letters or characters in a piece of text to be printed. The entire concept of kerning exists because although we’d like for spacing in typeface and typed text to always be consistent, inconsistent spacing between letters arises from the shape of the letters. As humans, our eyes can tell when the font isn’t lined up properly and might need additional spacing: even if you know nothing about kerning, if the letter-spacing is off, your eye realizes that something isn’t quite right. Each typeface requires its own specific kerning. 

With that being said, Kerning (capitalization) for fonts is a function in Microsoft Word that adjusts the space between two individual letters for a better look. This also leads to spacing between words, phrases, and sentences within paragraphs that are typed. I have found this to be helpful regarding accessibility in documents that I create for faculty, staff, and students, as well as making documents look aesthetically pleasing.

Kerning becomes important when you are designing with large or non-Sans Serif fonts on Word. Specific examples of this may include: research paper covers, abstracts, book covers, title pages, and any text that you’d like to stand out. 

Something interesting is that Microsoft Word has Kerning for fonts switched off by default, and normally you don’t need to bother with it. Truth be told, I rarely turn on Kerning for fonts unless I absolutely need to. But it is a neat way to make sure that my text is emphasized and legible by all.

How do I turn on Kerning?

To turn on Kerning, here are the steps:

  1. Click the pop-out arrow on Font (on the Home tab in Microsoft Word). 
  2. Then, go to the Advanced tab. 
  3. Within the advanced tab, select the checkbox for Kerning for fonts.
  4. Once you are back in your document, you can experiment with Kerning by entering a small point size in the box for font size and typing on your document. You can continue to experiment with the font size and the spacing.

Kerning is a simple way to add some design and flair to your documents in Microsoft Word. Beyond simple aesthetics, it’s a neat way to keep accessibility and legibility in check while you write, annotate, and create. 

About the Author

Victoria Thompson is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation–a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools–and a consultant for Ignite EdTech. She has been in education for five years and began her journey teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science in Summerville, SC. After completing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction she moved to the Seattle, WA area in 2018, where her career has pivoted to focusing on STEM integration in schools, K-12 mathematics instruction with research on decolonizing mathematics curriculum for teachers and learners, creating inclusive math environments, and using technology to bridge equity gaps in math education.

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