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TechNote #151: Last modified: 08/14/2017

MathType: Top and bottom of equations are cut off in Word


The information in this document applies to:

 

  • MathType 6.x (Windows)
  • MathType 6.x (Macintosh)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 and later (Windows)
  • Microsoft Office 2008-2011 (Macintosh)

Issue:

When you insert inline MathType equations into a Word document, the top & bottom of some of the equations are cut off.


Reason:

If the paragraph line spacing in Word is set to "Exactly" some value, and if that value is too small to enclose the equation, this causes Word to place the equation behind lines of text, thus obscuring parts of the equation.


Explanation:

This issue occurs not only with "large" equations, but also with those that are somewhat "normal-sized":

Equation with top cut off in Word

It's helpful to understand the way paragraph line spacing (sometimes called leading) works. Most conventional word processors fix their "Single" spacing to be 120% of the font's type size. Thus a single-spaced paragraph using a 12pt font would nominally have a distance between baselines of 14.4pt (12pt plus 20% of 12pt). Here's an example (at 450% zoom) of 2 successive lines of 11pt text in Word, with paragraph spacing set to "Exactly 11pt":

11pt text with 11pt paragraph spacing

You can see in this example that some of the letters of successive lines nearly touch each other. The ascenders and descenders of the characters in some fonts are drawn such that if this example used those fonts, they would overlap. Thus the convention to add 20% padding to the font size to arrive at the standard leading for a word processor. This example, with the same 11pt text, shows (at 200% zoom this time) a line spacing of 13.2pt (20% more than 11pt):

Lines of text with 20% padding

Solution:

To illustrate the solution, let's look at an example with two equations, neither of which is what we'd call "tall":

The problem is that while we've set our paragraph to have proper line spacing for 11pt text, it doesn't account for larger items placed within the text. The example above has line spacing of exactly 13.2pt ("standard" spacing is 20% more than the font size); let's switch it to "Single":


Note: Perhaps you're working with a document you got from a colleague, and you're not the one who set the paragraph spacing to begin with. If you're not sure how to do that, in Windows, first click the Home tab in Word. In the Paragraph group, click the dialog box launcher. This is the diagonal arrow in the lower right of the group:

In Word 2011 for Mac, choose Paragraph from the Format menu. Whether Windows or Mac, in the Spacing section of the ensuing dialog, Line spacing is what we need to adjust.


That's an improvement since now the full equations show. If you like this appearance, keep the spacing set to Single and be done with it. (What's "good" and "bad" in a document, and what "looks right" is in the end up to you anyway. As the author, you decide. Whatever you decide, it's the right decision.) Many people object to the appearance of "Single" because the spacing of the 4 lines is not uniform from one line to the next. That's the way Microsoft Word handles a case like this though; it adjust spacing so that the objects "just fit", adding a bit of padding, and as a result the spacing is uneven from one line to the next.

If we want our paragraph spacing to be the same from one line to the next, we'll have to set it to "exactly" some value. Finding out the proper value is somewhat trial & error, but MathType helps you find a starting point. First, consider the tallest equation in the paragraph. In this case, that's the second one. Open it in MathType. Select it and copy it. Notice the value in the status bar: B=7. This means the equation's "baseline" shift is 7. That's the distance from the "baseline" of the text to the bottom-most part of the equation.

So our starting point is 18 in this case, since we're using 11pt text and we add 7pt to that. Here's how our block of text looks with line spacing of "Exactly 18pt":

Pretty close, and better (at least our line spacing is uniform), but we need to increase it a bit to account for the bottom of the second equation. "Exactly 20pt" nails it:

We hope this has been helpful. As always, please let us know if you have questions about this, or if you have additional techniques that work. We'd love to hear from you.


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