benface benface - 2 months ago 8
CSS Question

Is it possible to have letter-spacing relative to the font-size and inherit properly?

My question is basically the same as this one, but replace "line-height" with "letter-spacing": When a relative line-height is inherited, it is not relative to the element's font-size. Why? And how do i make it relative?

My use case is like this:

body {
font-size: 18px;
letter-spacing: 1.2em; /* I would like letter-spacing to be relative to the font-size across the document, at least until I override it */
}

.small {
font-size: 14px;
/* letter-spacing is 1.2em of 18px instead of 14px */
}


I know that the reason it doesn't work is that the computed value, and not the specified value, is inherited, so I have to re-specify the
letter-spacing
every time the
font-size
changes. But I'm hoping there's something similar to how unitless values in
line-height
work.

Sure I can do this:

* {
letter-spacing: 1.2em;
}


But then I can't stop the cascading at some element, like I would be able to with
line-height
:

body {
font-size: 18px;
line-height: 1.5;
}

.normal-line-height {
line-height: normal;
/* all the descendants of this element will have a normal line-height */
}


I mean, SURE, I could always do this...

.normal-letter-spacing, .normal-letter-spacing * {
letter-spacing: normal;
}


But it's still not as elegant as I would like. I don't think there's an elegant solution to this problem, but I'm asking in case I'm missing something.

Answer

CSS variables are not widely supported but would do the trick:

body {
  font-size: 18px;
  --spacing: 1.2em;
}
.normal-letter-spacing { /* No need to select `.normal-letter-spacing *` */
  --spacing: normal;
}
body * {
  letter-spacing: var(--spacing);
}
.small {
  font-size: 14px;
}
<div>
  <p>Lorem ipsum</p>
  <p class="small">Lorem ipsum</p>
</div>
<hr />
<div class="normal-letter-spacing">
  <p>Lorem ipsum</p>
  <p class="small">Lorem ipsum</p>
</div>

They work because the value of a custom property computes to the specified value:

Computed value: specified value with variables substituted (but see prose for "invalid variables")

Therefore, unlike what happens with letter-spacing, 1.2em is not transformed to an absolute length.

Then, you can tell all elements to use --spacing as the value of letter-spacing. So 1.2em will be resolved locally with respect of the font size of each element.

Unlike * { letter-spacing: 1.2em; }, this approach sets --spacing: 1.2em only once, in the body, and lets it propagate by inheritance. Therefore, if you want to change that value in a subtree, you only need to override --spacing in the root. You don't have to select all the subtree.

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