Line spacing isn’t typically something you think about, until you have to. When there’s an important written assignment due, suddenly you’re doubtful about how much space to put in between your lines. In this quick guide, we go over all your line spacing options and when to use each, plus we explain how to apply single and double spacing in Google Docs and Microsoft Word.
What is line spacing?
Line spacing is the amount of vertical space between lines of text in a document. It is crucial in readability because if the lines of text are too close together, they become hard to read. On the other hand, if they’re too far apart, they make the text look long and sparse.
There is no single “best line spacing” to use. Different types of line spacing apply to different situations, and people have their own personal preferences as well. However, a particular type of line spacing is often required for academic assignments or when formatting according to certain style guides. So it’s best to always refer to the guidelines before making your selection.
Types of line spacing
In short, there are four common types of line spacing for writing. We cover the details below, but here’s a quick list:
1 Single spacing
2 1.15 spacing
3 1.5 spacing
4 Double spacing
What is single spacing?
Designated as the “1.0” for spacing length, single spacing is the standard on which other types of line spacing are based. Essentially, single spacing puts a new line of text directly underneath the previous one, with minimal space in between to separate the letters.
What is 1.15 spacing?
A newer option for line spacing, 1.15 spacing increases the vertical distance between text lines by 15% compared to single spacing. It’s an option for people who like how brisk single spacing is but still find it a little too crowded. Most notably, the default line spacing in Microsoft Word 2021 is 1.15 spacing.
What is 1.5 spacing?
Just like it sounds, 1.5 spacing is the middle distance between single- and double-spaced, or half a line of text. Sometimes word processors don’t offer the option of 1.5 spacing, so it’s less common.
What is double spacing?
Double spacing uses an entire empty line in between lines of text. As the most spacious of the common options for line spacing, it is great for readability. It can also make text seem less overwhelming, although for long works it can be too spacious and make the entire work too lengthy, which is why most books are single-spaced.
Double spacing is ideal for works that require editing, like school papers or submission manuscripts. Historically, the extra space between lines was used for handwritten notes and corrections, but this is less common in the digital era.
What are examples of line spacing?
Single spacing example
1.15 spacing example
1.5 spacing example
Double spacing example
When to use single or double spacing
Line spacing in business writing
Generally speaking, shorter line spacing, like single or 1.15 spacing, works best for business correspondence. The professional business letter format suggests using single spacing for the body text, with an extra empty line between paragraphs.
Likewise, the proper cover letter format recommends either single or 1.15 spacing, also with an extra empty line between paragraphs.
However, if you’re writing a long-form business document, like a report, you should consider double spacing. For manuscripts submitted for review or publication, double spacing is usually preferred.
Line spacing in APA format
Line spacing in MLA format
Just like with the APA format, works written in the MLA format require double spacing for the entire paper. This includes the works cited page as well as block quotes (long direct quotations set apart from the rest of the body text).
Line spacing in Chicago format
As with the other academic formats, the Chicago Manual of Style also requests double spacing. For block quotes in Chicago format, use an extra empty line before and after block quotes.
How to format double spacing
If double spacing is necessary, as with many academic assignments, it’s best not to do it manually, i.e., hitting the enter button twice after each line. This makes it much more difficult to revise later, when the ends of your lines change.
Instead, use built-in formatting options that automatically adjust your paper correctly, even when you make revisions. Below, we explain how to set up double spacing in Word and Google Docs.
How to format double spacing in Word
In newer versions of Microsoft Office, you can find the option for double spacing in Word under the Design tab. Click the icon labeled Paragraph Spacing and choose Double to automatically apply double spacing to the entire document. Note that the option for “paragraph spacing” applies to every line of body text, not only lines between paragraphs.
Alternatively, you can click the Line and Paragraph Spacing icon in the Word toolbar and select the option “2.0” for double spacing. This is ideal if you want only a portion of your paper to be double-spaced but not the entire document.
How to format double spacing in Google Docs
To set double spacing in Google Docs, go to the toolbar before you begin writing. Click on the Line and paragraph spacing icon, which looks like a double-sided vertical arrow and three stacked horizontal lines. This icon may be hidden, so if you can’t see it, click the three vertical dots at the end of the toolbar for more options.
After you click the icon, you’ll have the option to choose “single,” “1.15,” “1.5,” or “double” line spacing. You’ll also be able to automate adding an extra line before or after a paragraph.
Line spacing FAQs
What is line spacing?
Line spacing is the amount of vertical space between lines of text. It is crucial in readability because if lines of text are too close together, they become hard to read. But if they’re too far apart, they make the text look long and wordy.
What is 1.5 line spacing?
Sometimes word processors offer the option of 1.5 line spacing. Just like it sounds, 1.5 line spacing is the middle distance between single- and double-spaced, or half a line of text.
When do you use single and double spacing?
Generally speaking, single spacing is preferred for business correspondence, like emails or cover letters. Double spacing is typically only required for academic assignments, as well as professional manuscripts submitted for review or publication.