For the purposes of this discussion we’ll use the word “gap” to mean the empty distance between two words or letters and the word “space” to mean the character that results from pressing the space bar on your keyboard. In light of this definition, the question is actually asking about random gaps inside words in InDesign.
It’s important that we understand the problem.
- First, understanding the problem helps us see that InDesign isn’t going crazy.
- Secondly, understanding the problem helps make sense of the solutions.
- Thirdly, if the problem description doesn’t fit your situation, there’s no sense trying the prescribed solution.
The problem usually occurs in texts that have a combination of fully justified paragraphs, long words, 2 columns, and no hyphenation. Here’s an example from a 1 column layout:
The word “ɩnɩ́ɩ” has an unwanted gap in it. The language group has chosen not to hyphenate words. The preceding line ends in a large word and the following line begins with a large word–words that are too large to be conveniently pulled onto this line.
If the text is set as left justified, the unwanted gap disappears:
There are 9 words on the line in question, meaning that there are 8 spaces. Here are the paragraph justification settings:
These settings permit InDesign to expand the spaces between words by 60%. That means that the 8 spaces could be expanded to the width of 12.8 normal spaces. That isn’t enough to fill the line so InDesign has to make up the difference somewhere else. It does it by putting a random gap in one of the words.
(By the way, this illustration is taken from a real PA job. I recommend using the Adobe World-Ready Paragraph Composer, but the discussion in this document also applies to the single-line composer.)
The first solution is to address the problem by asking the translation team if the parameters for typesetting can be adjusted. For example, what about using a 1 column layout, what about allowing hyphenation, or what about left justifying paragraphs.
The second solution to consider is to put extra spaces between all the words on the line(s) in question. For example:
Comparing this with the first example, there are larger gaps between the words and the words themselves are more compact. This shows that InDesign was desperately trying to adjust the line in order to fully justify the text. Putting extra spaces on the line gives InDesign a little more flexibility for justifying the text.
By the way, there are now 16 spaces in the line and some of them may have been stretched. It’s no wonder that InDesign couldn’t justify the text with a mere 8 spaces.
This isn’t a perfect solution because it requires going through the text to identify the lines that have random gaps and putting extra spaces on those lines. If at a later time the text in that paragraph needs to be adjusted, those spaces might end up on other lines and that will make the word gaps on those lines uneven. One nice thing about this solution is that it doesn’t require changing the paragraph settings and it doesn’t require typesetting the document again.
The third solution is more automated, but also more complicated. First of all, add the following lines in FinalChanges.txt:
in "<ParaStyle:p>.*?rn" : "u0020" > "u0020u0020u0020" in "<ParaStyle:p_first>.*?rn" : "u0020" > "u0020u0020u0020" in "<ParaStyle:c1p>.*?rn" : "u0020" > "u0020u0020u0020" in "<ParaStyle:c2p>.*?rn" : "u0020" > "u0020u0020u0020"
This line will replace all spaces in paragraphs with three spaces. Then the word spacing parameters for these paragraph styles need to be adjusted. I recommend 25%, 33%, and 1000% for the minimum, desired, and maximum word spacing values, respectively. 33% is to compensate for three spaces being between each word. 1000% is the maximum allowed for this field. 25% gives InDesign to make the gaps between words smaller than a standard space. A typesetter can tweak these values to make the text look natural, but remember that there need to be large word gaps to achieve full justification.
Here is a screen capture showing settings for the p paragraph style:
Since the c1p, c2p, and p_first styles are based on p, this change should cascade to the other styles.
And this is what the final result should look like:
If you have a keen eye, you will see that other words, like “ɖájaájaanáa” now look better.
This same approach can be extended to other paragraph styles, like ip or s, as appropriate for the publication.