I am actually writing a master thesis in LaTeX but I didn't really like the default page style of the document style book. Therefore I tried to make my own page style and I resized manually the margins.

Now comes the question: is there a best ratio of number of letters per line (I count a space as a letter), and number of lines per page if the size of the page is a classical A4 format in order to get the text as readable as possible? Also what should be the best size of the police?

I have not really find a precise information on this subject so far. Moreover, I tried to determine for myself those ratios using books and articles, but it seems that those ratios differ widely depending on the size of the pages, on the publisher, on the author...

Actually, a page of my thesis counts between 70 and 75 letters per line (in 12pt) and between 38 and 42 lines per page. However I am not totally satisfied of those settings. On the one hand, I think that a page is too heavy to read with these settings (which maybe depends also a bit on the size of the letters), on the other hand I want a page to contain enough informations: somehow I don't want a reader to have to turn continuously the pages, since this "breaks" the reading.

I know that one could always argue that this is a subjective question, but I am almost sure that there are very accurate such ratios and that this question has already been studied scientifically.

Does anyone know a good reference for this problem?

As usual, thanks in advance!

  • While I generally like your question, please clarify "not totally satisfied of those settings". – lockstep Mar 27 '11 at 10:14
  • @lockstep: I clarified this sentence. Does it help to get a clearer view on my feeling? – Thomas Connor Mar 27 '11 at 10:24
  • Yes, it does. – lockstep Mar 27 '11 at 10:25
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    Maybe this answer is helpful. – lockstep Mar 27 '11 at 10:39
  • For the second part of the question (lines per page), see: this question – Lev Bishop Mar 27 '11 at 13:48

See these book recommendations for typography and especially the book by Robert Bringhurst because it covers book design in detail.

For a general text, the number of characters per line is about 2.5 alphabets, that is around 65 to 75 characters. However, line length depends of the purpose of a text. Text that is meant to be read quicker (like a newspaper) will have shorter lines. And you won't be surprised that legal texts often have longer lines -- making them harder to read.


The Memoir Users' Guide, section 2.4 "The Typeblock" cites and summarises Bringhurst's work, and provides a couple of useful tips and macros.

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    This answer would be much improved if you pulled out the two or three most relevant values and presented them here. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 27 '11 at 19:06
  • @dmckee: Yes, I agree, partially, but (sorry) I just didn't have the time to do the necessary editing. I wouldn't have wanted just to dump a copy of the manual here, without trimming it to add a bit of value. – Brent.Longborough Mar 29 '11 at 18:21

Some other ressources and one recommendation. I think it's not a good idea to change the geometry of the page. Typography is a real work and it's not so easy. Two ressources not indicated in the link of Christian :

  1. Tufte class http://code.google.com/p/tufte-latex/
  2. Koma-script http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/koma-script/

The first one is an original work inspired from Tufte's ideas. You don't have to manage the problem with width of a line and how many characters per line. The second is a very fine work especially for occidental countries about how to design a document (Learn : "how to use the DIV option")

  • Thanks for the advice. However, the second link is dead. – Thomas Connor Mar 27 '11 at 11:51
  • @Thomas Perhaps a local problem for you with the ctan servers but the link is correct for me. It's easy to "google" koma-script. – Alain Matthes Mar 27 '11 at 12:35
  • I disagree with the statement "it's not a good idea to change the geometry of the page". It's true that typography is difficult (especially for non-experts), but the latex defaults are far enough from optimal that it's worth trying to fix it (after informing oneself of the issues involved and after considering the kind of document that one is writing). – Lev Bishop Mar 27 '11 at 13:52
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    @Lev Yes "the latex defaults are far enough from optimal" and I agree with you that it's worth trying to fix it but you have two possibilities to fix it : by yourself with "geometry" etc. and yes you can modify all the marges like you want or you can use some good works like Koma-script or memoir. I think the good way is to begin with a good class and then if you want some specific results you can change what you want. But it's easy to get a result like with MS word ! – Alain Matthes Mar 27 '11 at 14:23

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