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Letterform Anatomy


Ampersand A Symbol (&), developed as a shortcut by scribes by combining the letterforms e and t, meaning "and."
Aperture The amount of space between two points in a letter forming an opening to the interior space on characters like a* c* e*s*. Sometimes incorrectly defined as a synonym for counter, which is the actual interior space.
Apex Describes the upward pointing of the junctions of two diagonal strokes.
Ascender The part of certain lowercase letters that extends above the x-height (or meanline) of a font.
Ascender Line An imaginary line marking the topmost point of ascenders that rise above the meanline and usually, the cap line.
Arm Short horizontal or oblique strokes projecting from a stem, unattached at one or both ends as in the letters E, F, T and Y and the upper right strokes of K and k. (Also see Crossbar, Cross Stroke, Leg.)
Baseline The imaginary line along which the bases of capital letters (and lowercase letters without descenders) are positioned.
Beak The half-serif finish on some horizontal arms, as in E, T or L. Similar to a spur or serif, it is usually more pronounced. Also called _______ terminal.
Bitmapped Fonts (Screen Fonts) Raster/pixel based, screen fonts come in specific point sizes and are kept in Font Suitcases. Sizes usually only go up to 24 points, and they are not scaleable. Both screen and printer fonts are needed for Postscript fonts!
Bleed An image, background, type or printed item that extends to the edge of the paper (after trimming).
Boldface Type A thick, heavy variety of type, often used for emphasis.
Bowl Curved parts of a character that fully or partially enclose an interior space (counter) of some letters such as D, P, R, B, d, b, o, p and the upper part of the letter g. The lower part of the g is called a loop. Both parts in the capital B are _______s.
Bullet A dot or other shape that is used as a decorative or organized element.
Character A letter, number or symbol.
Character Space The space between individual letters in words.
Condensed Type Type that is narrow in width proportionate to its height.
Copy The text of a manuscript (story, article, etc.)
Counter The interior space enclosed by a letterform, whether wholly enclosed (as in "d" or "o") or partially (as in "c" or "m") Some characters, such as A, B, and M, have more than one _________.
Crossbar A horizontal (or occasionally diagonal) stroke that connects (but does not cut through) two stems or sides of a round, as in A, H.
Cross Stroke The horizontal stroke in a letterform that cuts through the stem, as in the lowercase letters f and t.
"Curly Quotes" ‘ = Option ] ’ = Shift Option ] “ = Option [ ” = Shift Option [
Dashes Don't use hyphens for EN and EM dashes. Two hyphens (--) do not make an EN dash (–) = Option Hyphen or an EM dash (—) = Shift Option Hyphen.
Descender The part of some lowercase letters that extends below the baseline of the letter.
Descender Line A line marking the lowest part of the descenders within a font.
Dingbat An ornamental symbol.
Display Type Type that is 14 points or larger, used for subheads and headlines.
Double Story Specific versions of the lowercase letters a and g, as opposed to the single story style (plain written).
Ear The small stroke that projects from the upper right side of the bowl of the lowercase roman g. Sometimes also used to describe the short stroke in the lowercase r.
Em A unit of measurement equal to the current type size, e.g., an em in 12-point type is equal to 12 points. Originally derived from the width of the uppercase M.
Em Dash (—) A dash the width of the letter "m" used in text as an alternate to parenthesis to indicate an abrupt change in thought, or where a period is too strong but a comma is too weak. (—) Shift Option Hyphen.
En A unit of measurement equal to half of one em.
En Dash (–) The en dash is used between words indicating a duration (e.g. 3:00–5:00 p.m.; January–March). The en dash is also used with compound adjectives where one element is made of two words or a hyphenated word e.g. Los Angeles–Seattle flight. (–) Opt Hyphen
Expanded or Extended Type Type that is elongated in width proportionate to its height.
Eye The enclosed, top part of the lowercase e.
Face One of the styles in a typeface family. For example, the bold style of the Helvetica family is a _______.
Family All the fonts that comprise a related group, as in Palatino, Palatino Italic, Palatino Bold and Palatino Bold Italic. Some include other weights, such as Book, Semibold, or Black, and/or Condensed or Extended faces.
Figure/Ground Reversal When the eye switches from seeing a shape as foreground and sees it instead as background, as in Rubin's Goblet, where we can see two faces, or one vase. (The facing faces that form a candlestick looking vase.)
Finial The tapered or curved end (terminal) of a stroke not ending in a serif. (Also see terminal.)
Flush Aligned to the margin, i.e.; with no indention.
Folio A page number.
Font Originally, a complete set of characters, incl. numerals, punctuation etc.) From the word Found as in type Foundries. Today, it refers to the digital files that contain bitmapped or outline shapes used to display and recreate TYPEFACES (interchanged).
Grid An underlying structure composed of a linear framework used by designers to organize typographic and pictorial elements and build unity in a composition.
Gutter The inner margin of a page, closest to the binding, or spaces between columns of type on a page.
Hairline The thinnest stroke of a type character that has stroke weight variation. (Also used along with the word serif to refer to the extremely thin, flat, unbracketed serifs of Modern classification typefaces.)
Hanging Indent Type set with the first line of the paragraph flush left, and the subsequent lines indented.
Hierarchy Visual hierarchy, established by emphasis, sets the order of importance of elements on a page. Emphasis is achieved through contrasts, which stress the relative importance and separation or connection of visual elements.
Indention The amount by which a line of type is set less than a full measure, as when the first line of a paragraph is begun with a blank area of some fixed width.
Italic A slanted style of a font that more closely resembles handwriting. A true one is more than just a Roman style slanted to the right, the characters are shaped differently from the Roman (plain) style of the typeface.
Justification Slight adjustments made to the word and character spaces within a line of type so that it fully extends to a particular line length.
Kerning A general term for adjusting the space between individual letter pairs. Manual _________ is optically fine tuning space between individual pairs of characters to create a visually consistent look.
Leaders Strings of a character, usually periods or dashes, to lead the eye across the space between items in adjacent columns. Usually found in tables, such as tables of contents or in menu pricing.
Leading The amount of vertical space between lines of type, measured in points. Named after the strips of lead which spaced apart lines of metal type.
Leg Short, downward stroke of the stem of a letterform, as in the letter K. (Sometimes also used for a stroke at the bottom of a stem, as in the letter L.)
Legibility In typography, legibility is taken to mean that letters, words and phrased are easy to read—that is, the letterforms are clearly identifiable. See also Readability.
Letterspace Insert extra space between letters in a word or words. (track out).
Legibility In typography, it is taken to mean that letters, words and phrases are easy to read—that is, the letterforms are clearly identifiable. See also Readability.
Ligatures Special double characters that replace problematic character combinations, representing two letters as one. In modern typography, common ones are fi, fl, ffi, and sometimes ff. E.g., fi where the dot of the i runs into the top of the f.
Line Length Length of text lines depends on size of type, alignment, leading & x-height. Line length should be 1.75–2xs (in picas) the point size of type. (10 point type on 12 points of leading, line length of 17.5 picas. Line can go longer if leading is increased.
Link The short connecting stroke between the bowl and the loop of the lowercase double–story g.
Loop The enclosed or partially enclosed bottom portion of the lowercase double–story g that falls below the baseline.
Margins The blank areas beyond the edges of the type area on the page.
Monospace A typeface in which all characters occupy the same amount of horizontal width regardless of the character. As opposed to "proportional space."
Multiple Master Typefaces Now discontinued by Adobe, MM fonts can be condensed and expanded, and made light or very bold, without making the characters look distorted by altering. Additionally, some MM fonts allow other modifications of style such as optical size.
Non-breaking Space Also called Hard Space or Fixed Space, a special space character that prevents an automatic line break (line wrap) at its position.
Oblique A slanted roman character.
OpenType A superset of the earlier TrueType and PostScript Type1 font formats. An Extension of Microsoft's TrueType Open Format, which can have PS outlines or TT outlines in a single font file good on Mac & Windows. Can incl. expanded character set, glyphs etc.
Orphan The last word or line of a paragraph occuring at the top of a colums or page. To be avoided.
Outline Fonts ________ or Vector font shapes are described by mathematical algorithms. ________ fonts are resolution independent—they will print at the maximum resolution of your printer, staying clean and crisp at enlarged sizes.
Paragraph Leading Extra vertical space added between paragraphs. No more than 1/2 again the leading of the paragraph, but enough to visually identify the separate paragraph (about 1/3 again.) 10pt type w/12pt leading = extra 4–6pts space between paragraphs. Space after/b4.
Pica A unit of measurement equal to about 1/16 inch. There are 12 points to a pica and 6 picas to an inch, so 72 points to an inch.
Point A unit of measurement, often used to measure type size, equal to 0.013837 inch. Many modern typesetting systems consider the point to be 1/72 of an inch, or 0.013888... inch.
Postscript A programming language that was developed by Adobe Systems that mathematically places text and images on a page.
Readability Whether an extended amount of text—several paragraphs or pages—is easy to read. Transitional faces are generally more readable than Geometric Sans Serif faces.
River Vertical white lines that appear in paragraphs of justified (usually) type. They are made up of gaps between words that happen to align vertically, so our eyes connect them. These are distracting, awkward shapes.
Roman Generally, this style of a typeface refers to its plain (vs. italic, bold, or bold italic) version.
Rule A line added to a page for emphasis, decoration or separation.
Sans Serif Type Typefaces that have no serifs, such as Helvetica, Arial or Futura.
Script A style of letterform that most resembles cursive handwriting.
Serif A small cross stroke accentuating the end of the main stroke of a letter in some typefaces.
Serif Type Text using typefaces that have serifs, such as Times, Baskerville or Courier. Also called "roman," although that term is also used to describe type that is neither italic nor bold.
Shoulder A transitional section on a character, on lowercase letters such as h, m, n, or u where a curved arch merges into a straight stem.
Single-Story Specific versions of the lowercase letters a & g, as opposed to the double story a & g (the fancy ones).
Soft Hyphens (Cmd Hyphen) Use a "soft"(discretionary) hyphen, if you manually hyphenate words, so that if the text rewraps (when you change font size, or add text in front of existing text), the hyphen will disappear. Soft hyphens are auto removed, hard hyphens stay.
Soft Returns A soft line break creates a new line without making a new paragraph. Type Shift-Return to enter a soft return.
Stem A primary vertical or near-vertical, straight, full-length stroke of a character (as in I, E, b, p, 1, 4). (Some sources include full-length diagonal strokes, A, V, W, y.)
Stroke The main, straight diagonal part of a character, although this term is sometimes loosely used to refer to any main straight (vertical, near-vertical or horizontal) portion of the character.
Swash Letters Elaborate italic letters used for decorative initials and headings.
Tail The curved or diagonal downward stroke from a capital Q.
Text Type The main body of a manuscript. Usually set with 8-12 point type.
Terminal The end of any stroke that doesn't terminate with a full serif.
Ball Terminal A combination of a dot or circular stroke and the curved bit (hook) at the end of some terminals (a, c).
Beak Terminal Refers to the sharp spur or beak at the end of a terminal. There are often some on 20th century roman typefaces, on the f, right-edge of a, upper right edge of c, upper left edge of j, etc.
Teardrop Terminal A stroke ending that tapers into a teardrop shape.
Tracking Adjusting space between all characters to be tighter or looser. Also called character spacing or letter-spacing.
Type Size The size of type, measured in points between the bottom of the descender and the top of the ascender.
Typeface One or more character sets (upper and lower case letters and sometimes numerals), sharing particular design features. (e.g. Palatino). This refers to the look and design of type rather than the specific digital font.
Type Style A complete character set reflecting one stylistic variation of a typeface design, such as italic, bold, condensed, etc. All of the styles in a typeface form the type family.
Typeface Family A typeface design with several type styles.
Typographic Form Form is the shape of something. At its most basic level, the letter A has a different form than the letter B. On a higher level, form is what differentiates the Bodoni A from the Garamond A.
Typographic Syntax The process of arranging typographic elements into a cohesive whole. The point of typographic syntax is giving, clarifying or enhancing meaning through the arrangement of typographic elements (letter, word, line column/margin).
Vertex The downward pointing junction of two diagonal strokes. ( V, W )
Weight The darkness, or density, of a typeface, independent of size. Weight is indicated by relative terms such as thin, light, regular, plain, semibold, bold, bold, extra-bold, and black.
Widow The last line of a paragraph that has a single word or two very short words. To be avoided.
Word Space The distance between words.
X-Height The height of those lowercase letters such as "x," that have no ascenders or descenders. A larger __________ makes a typeface look larger.
Tittle The dot over an i or j.
Created by: Poptimistic