In a previous post “Copy Out the Window” (28 Feb 2010) I wrote about composing a justified copy block. Those comments were directed toward copy editing.
But for fine-tuning your copy in inDesign, the most powerful tool available is the H&J dialogue box.
(Disregard auto-leading, as you should always specify a leading in Basic Character Formats).
By proper adjustment of the minimum and desired spacing you can arrive at a much better setting.
I say “arrive”, as you do not get there the very first time.
In fact, not only may you find it necessary to rebreak the lines, but you may find it necessary to change the original line length* a few points, if only to avoid an unfortunate hyphenation.
Consequently, you should check the Adobe Single-Line Composer box instead of the Adobe Paragraph-Composer box; otherwise you may not be able to hyphenate where you find it preferable.
The screen shot shows my initial settings at 80% / 85% / 90%, somewhat tighter than the default 85% / 100% / 133% of inDesign.
I then slowly decrease overall in 2-3% increments, though seldom do I go below 75% for the minimum.
If you are wondering what the percentages correspond to, the answer to that is that they are based on the width of the character space as specified by the font designer.
For a general discussion of the width of the character space in some everyday fonts go to Microsoft Typography.
You will see that the average space is 4-to-the-em.
A better choice of space for fine typography is 5-to-the-em.
If you’ve never set type by hand and don’t have the tactile experience of how large a 3- or 4-to-the-em space can be, compared to a 5- or 6-to-the-em space, here is a picture of 11-pt Monotype Bembo, three-points leaded:
But, because you are setting digital type you are not so limited.
You now have the capability of 5.25-to-the-em or 5.5-to-the-em. And that explains why the fields of the dialogue box are expressed in percentages.
*Remember this is a special case, a single paragraph.