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By The Numbers

If you are not a math geek, this page might get pretty boring, so we will just start with the result.

  • The ratio of words to ems is about 2.6 ems per word.
  • The best line length is about 10 to 12 words per line.
  • A screen displays 1 1/3 pixels per point.

OK, now to the boring math and research stuff.

Pixels per Point

The typographic point was first established in 1799, long before the concept of display pixels or ink jet dots per inch. A point is approximately 0.013837 of an inch or 72.27 points per inch. This number has been rounded to 72 points per inch for simplicity in most modern situations.

Taking this a step further, many of today’s computer screens have resolutions of approximately 100 pixels per inch. The ratio between 72 and 100 is 1.388888… pixels per point, but the ratio between 72 points and 96 pixels is exactly 1 1/3 pixels per point.

This ratio also exists for computer printers. We used a graphic editor to create an image that was 700 pixels wide, and then we set our printer margins to 0.75 of an inch left and right, leaving a printable area of 7 inches. When we printed the test graphic, the right edge was chopped off. We then placed 3 vertical lines near the right edge of the graphic at 671, 672, and 673 pixels and printed the graphic again. The 671 and 672 lines printed, but not the 673 line. This experiment illustrated that 7 inches of printed area was equal to 672 pixels, or 96 pixels per inch. The ratio was confirmed.

In the next test we created an HTML table with one pixel borders and two columns. The width of the first column was 5 ems and the width of the second column was 15 ems. We displayed this table at various point sizes, captured the screen image, and then used our graphic editor to count both column widths in pixels. The difference between the two column widths is the width of 10 ems. The results verified the ratio as 1 1/3 pixels per point “rounded”.

Lorum ipsum

This is the name given to the commonly used placeholder text used in the publishing and graphic design. Here is the start of the actual paragraph of what looks like nonsense words:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

We used this text to determine the number of ems per word. The results of our tests are in the following chart:

Point
Size
1 1/3
px / pt
Pixel
Size
Column Width
25 em 26 em 30 em 31 em 33 em 35 em 40 em
10 13 1/3 13 325 338 390 403 429 455 455
11 14 2/3 15 375 390 450 465 495 525 525
12 16 16 400 416 480 496 528 560 560
14 18 2/3 19 475 494 570 589 627 665 665
15 20 20 500 520 600 620 660 700 700
16 21 1/3 21 525 546 630 651 693 735 735
"Lorem ..." word count 9.67 10 11.50 12 12.80 13.60 15.75
Ems per word 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.58 2.58 2.57 2.54
A-         A+

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