What Does Kerning Mean?

Kerning refers to the use of white space in text, where letters may be able to overlap each other (such as A and V), both to save space and to look more natural on the page. Kerning can be applied to printed paper documents or digital displays. It is a key type of layout for modern text.


Techopedia Explains Kerning

The idea of kerning is that letters can overlap in terms of horizontal space, rather than each being contained in its own separate box or cage. The idea of kerning bridges the difference between how humans would write, and how computers wrote in their early days. In the days of early personal computers, each letter had to be encased in its own vertical and horizontal space. That is because the letter was displayed in sequence from machine code, without a lot of complex memory dedicated to rendering it on a screen or page. Now, with much more sophisticated digital imaging and memory adaptation tools, today’s digital displays, including word processors, Web browsers and other displays, can show the letters in ways that involve kerning – where the edge of one letter may overlap with the horizontal boundary of the edge of another letter. However, this takes more resources in terms of programming and coding than it would for a program to simply display letters in sequence.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…