thin space

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1683, thin + space.


thin space (plural thin spaces)

  1. (letterpress typography) A metal block used to separate words, one fifth of an em in width.
    • 1683, Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises: Or, the Doctrine of Handy-Works. Applied to the art of Printing., v 2, pp. 240–41:
      If it be only a Single Letter or two that drops, he thruſts the end of his Bodkin between every Letter of that Word, till he comes to a Space: and then perhaps by forcing thoſe Letters closer, he may have room to put in another Space or a Thin Space; which if he cannot do, and he finds the Space ſtand Looſe in the Form; he with the Point of his Bodkin picks the Space up and bows it a little; which bowing makes the Letters on each ſide of the Space keep their parallel diſtance; for by its Spring it thruſts the Letters that were cloſed with the end of the Bodkin to their adjunct Letters, that needed no cloſing.
  2. (typography) In digital text, a character representing a thin space.
    • 2002, Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style (version 2.5), Vancouver, Hartley & Marks, →ISBN, p 43:
      All you may see on the keyboard is a space bar, but typographers use several invisible characters: the word space, fixed spaces of various sizes (em space, en space, thin space, figure space, etc) and a hard space or no-break space.


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