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Typographer’s Glossary

Letterform anatomy
Typed in Home Display
Serif Type Classification
  • Serif: Serif's are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface that has serifs is called a serif typeface (or seriffed typeface). Some of the main classifications of Serif type are: Blackletter, Venetian, Garalde, Modern, Slab Serif, Transitional, and Informal. Fonts in each classfication share certain similiar characteristics including the shape or appearance of their serifs. Serif fonts are widely used in traditional printed material such as books and newspapers. Show all Serif

  • Didone is a typeface classification characterized by slab-like serifs without brackets; vertical orientation of weight axes. (The vertical parts of letters are thick.); strong contrast between thick and thin lines. (Horizontal parts of letters are thin in comparison to the vertical parts.); an unornamented, "modern" appearance. Examples include the slightly condensed, unbracketed serif typefaces such as De Archie and Monday. The classification is also known as modern. This style emerged in the late 18th century. Show all Didone

  • Geralde: Geralde is the baroque group of Old Style typefaces. It was originally a style developed by Renaissance typographers to replace the Blackletter style of type. Based on ancient Roman inscriptions, Old Style fonts are generally characterized by low contrast between thick and thin strokes, bracketed serifs, and a left-leaning axis or stress. Show all Geralde

  • Modern: A style of typeface developed in the late 18th century that continued through much of the 19th century. Characterized by high contrast between thick and thin strokes and flat serifs, Modern fonts are harder to read than previous and later typestyles. Some later variations of Modern include the Slab Serifs with bolder, square serifs (often considered a separate style altogether) and the related Clarendon style with less contrast and softer, rounded shapes. Also Known As: Didone | New Antiqua. Show all Playtype Serif

  • Venetian: The Renaissance (vs. baroque) group of Old Style typefaces. It was a style developed by Renaissance typographers to replace the Blackletter style of type. Based on ancient Roman inscriptions, Venetian style fonts are generally characterized by low contrast between thick and thin strokes, bracketed serifs, and a left-leaning axis or stress. Show all Venetian

  • Display: Display typography is a potent element in graphic design, where there is less concern for readability and more potential for using type in an artistic manner. A display typeface is designed for the use of type at large sizes, perhaps 30 points or larger. The misuse of the term display typeface as a synonym for ornamental type has become widespread; properly speaking, ornamental typefaces are a subcategory of display typefaces. Show all Freestyle Serif

  • Text: The bulk of what we read is body text. It's the novels, magazine articles, newspaper stories, contracts, and Web pages we read day after day. Body type or body text fonts are the typefaces used for body copy. Body copy requires legible, easy to read body text fonts. In general (with many exceptions) consider serif faces for a subdued, formal, or serious look. And (with exceptions) consider a sans serif body text fonts for a crisper, bolder, or more informal tone. Show all Text Serif

  • Stencil: A typeface with breaks in the face to give it the appearance of the stenciled alphabets used on boxes and crates. A stencil is a thin sheet of material, such as paper, plastic, or metal, with letters or a design cut from it, used to produce the letters or design on an underlying surface by applying pigment through the cut-out holes in the material. The key advantage of a stencil is that it can be reused to repeatedly and rapidly produce the same letters or design. Show all Stencil Serif

  • Decorative: Also known as ornamental typefaces are used exclusively for decorative purposes, and are not suitable for body text. They have the most distinctive designs of all fonts, and may even incorporate pictures of objects, animals, etc. into the character designs. They usually have very specific characteristics (e.g., evoking the Wild West, Christmas, horror films, etc.) and hence very limited uses. Show all Decorative Serif

  • Square: The new contemporary style of typography. It is developed through the past decade to replace the more round geometric style in font design. Show all Square Serif

Sans Serif Type Classification
  • Sans Serif: In typography, a sans serif or sans-serif typeface is one that does not have the small projecting features called "serifs" at the end of strokes. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning "without". In print, sans-serif fonts are more typically used for headlines than for body text, while sans-serif fonts have become the de facto standard for body text on-screen, especially online. Show all Sans Serif

  • Geometric: Geometric sans-serif typefaces are based on geometric shapes. Note the optically circular letter "O" and the simple, single-story construction of the lowercase letter "a". Geometric sans-serif fonts have a very modern look and feel. Of these four sans-serif categories, geometric fonts tend to be the least useful for body text. Show all Geometric

  • Humanist: Is the most calligraphic of the sans-serif typefaces, with some variation in line width and more legibility than other sans-serif fonts. Show all Humanist

  • Gothic/Grotesque: Is frequently used as a synonym with sans serif. At other times, it is used (along with "Neo-Grotesque", "Humanist", "Lineal", and "Geometric") to describe a particular style or subset of sans-serif typefaces. The first sans-serif typeface called grotesque was also the first sans-serif typeface containing actual lowercase letters. Show all Grotesque/Gothic

  • Neo-Grotesque: Also known as Transitional or Realist. These are the most common sans-serif typefaces. They are relatively straight in appearance and have less line width variation than Humanist sans-serif typefaces. Transitional sans-serif is sometimes called "anonymous sans-serif" due to its relatively plain appearance. Show all Neo-Grotesque

  • Sans Stencil: Is a typeface with breaks in the face to give it the appearance of the stenciled alphabets used on boxes and crates. A stencil is a thin sheet of material, such as paper, plastic, or metal, with letters or a design cut from it, used to produce the letters or design on an underlying surface by applying pigment through the cut-out holes in the material. The key advantage of a stencil is that it can be reused to repeatedly and rapidly produce the same letters or design. Show all Sans Stencil

  • Sans Square: The Square style is the new contemporary style of typography. It is developed through the past decade to replace the more round geometric style in font design. Show all Sans Square

  • Monospaced: A fixed-pitch or non-proportional font. Monospaced means that every glyph is the same width (as opposed to variable-width fonts, where the w and m are wider than most letters, and the i is narrower). The first monospaced typefaces were designed for typewriters, which could only move the same distance forward with each letter typed. Show all Sans Monospaced

  • Display: Display typography is a potent element in graphic design, where there is less concern for readability and more potential for using type in an artistic manner. A display typeface is designed for the use of type at large sizes, perhaps 30 points or larger. The misuse of the term display typeface as a synonym for ornamental type has become widespread; properly speaking, ornamental typefaces are a subcategory of display typefaces. Show all Sans Display

  • Round: A rounded typeface means that all finishes; terminals, overshoots and finials are rounded. It means no sharp corners. The rounded finish creates a warmth making the font more accessible and sympathetic. With many recent Web 2.0 start-ups there is a clear trend in using rounded typefaces in logos and visual identities. A rounded typeface can be both slab and sans serif varying in different styles from humanist to square. Show all Sans Round

Slab Serif Type Classification
  • Slab Serif: A type of serif typeface characterized by thick, block-like serifs. Serif terminals may be either blunt and angular, or rounded. Slab serif typefaces generally have no bracket (feature connecting the strokes to the serifs). Some consider slab serifs to be a subset of modern serif typefaces including Clarendon, Typewriter, and Slab Serif (a separate sub-category of Slab Serif) styles. Show all Slab Serif

  • Humanist: Lineale typefaces based on the proportions of inscriptional Roman capitals and Humanist or Geralde lower-case, rather than on early grotesques. They have some stroke contrast, with two-story (double-story) a and g.These are the most calligraphic of the sans-serif typefaces, with some variation in line width and more legibility than other sans-serif fonts. Show all Humanist

  • Square: The new contemporary style of typography. It is developed through the past decade to replace the more round geometric style in font design. Show all Square

  • Typewriter: Just as the name suggests, these are slab serif fonts that mimic the look of type from both manual and electric typewriters. They are typically monospaced although they can also be proportionally spaced fonts. Some typewriter fonts are designed to be slightly distressed or grungy like the sometimes messy type from an old manual typewriter. Show all Typewriter

  • Neo-Grotesque: The Neo-grotesque style is currently among the most popular types of slab serif styles. Neo-grotesque have no bracketing and evenly weighted stems and serifs. The letterforms are similar to neo-grotesque or realist sans-serif fonts Show all Slab Neo-Grotesque

  • Display: Display typography is a potent element in graphic design, where there is less concern for readability and more potential for using type in an artistic manner. A display typeface is designed for the use of type at large sizes, perhaps 30 points or larger. The misuse of the term display typeface as a synonym for ornamental type has become widespread; properly speaking, ornamental typefaces are a subcategory of display typefaces. Show all Slab Display

  • Round: A rounded typeface means that all finishes; terminals, overshoots and finials are rounded. It means no sharp corners. The rounded finish creates a warmth making the font more accessible and sympathetic. With many recent Web 2.0 start-ups there is a clear trend in using rounded typefaces in logos and visual identities. A rounded typeface can be both slab- and sans-serif varying in different substyles from humanist to square. Show all Slab Round

Freestyle Type Classification
  • Freestyle: A freestyle typeface is a potent element in graphic design, where there is less concern for readability and more potential for using type in an artistic manner. The typeface is combined with negative space, graphic elements and pictures, forming relationships and dialog between words and images. Show all Freestyle

  • Display: Display typography is a potent element in graphic design, where there is less concern for readability and more potential for using type in an artistic manner. A display typeface is designed for the use of type at large sizes, perhaps 30 points or larger. The misuse of the term display typeface as a synonym for ornamental type has become widespread; properly speaking, ornamental typefaces are a subcategory of display typefaces. Show all Freestyle Display

  • Stencil: Is a typeface with breaks in the face giving it the appearance of the stenciled alphabets used on boxes and crates. A stencil is a thin sheet of material, such as paper, plastic, or metal, with letters or a design cut from it, used to produce the letters or design on an underlying surface by applying pigment through the cut-out holes in the material. The key advantage of a stencil is that it can be reused to repeatedly and rapidly produce the same letters or design. Show all Freestyle Stencil

  • Dot: The style is obviously a font made of dots almost like a stencil is made of cuts. Like any freestyle typeface the dot font style is less concerned with readability than graphic expression. Made for display usage. Show all Freestyle Dot

  • Decorative: Also known as ornamental typefaces are used exclusively for decorative purposes, and are not suitable for body text. They have the most distinctive designs of all fonts, and may even incorporate pictures of objects, animals, etc. into the character designs. They usually have very specific characteristics (e.g., evoking the Wild West, Christmas, horror films, etc.) and hence very limited uses. Show all Freestyle Decorative

  • Dingbat:, or Symbol, typefaces consist of symbols (such as decorative bullets, clock faces, railroad timetable symbols, CD-index, or TV-channel enclosed numbers) rather than normal text characters. It is an ornament, character or spacer used in typesetting. The term continues to be used in the computer industry to describe fonts that have symbols and shapes in the positions designated for alphabetical or numeric characters. Show all Freestyle Dingbats

  • Ripped: The style (a.k.a. Grunge) is a well-known phenomenon and genre in music, literature and other cultural spheres in the early 90ies. Within typography the trend was also apparent. Ripped means that the look is roughened in various degrees. It may look like a copy of a copy or as if someone has tried to erase it. Show all Freestyle Ripped

  • Script typefaces are based upon the varied and often fluid stroke created by handwriting. They are organized into highly regular formal types similar to cursive writing and looser, more casual scripts. Show all Freestyle Script

Case
  • Uppercase letters: The capital letters of the alphabet are uppercase glyphs. Uppercase letters are normally used at the beginning of sentences and as the first letter of proper names. The term uppercase is derived from the days of metal type where the lesser used capital letters were kept in the harder to reach upper case.

  • Lowercase letters: The little letters or non-capital letters of the alphabet are lowercase glyphs. They make up the bulk of written text, with uppercase or capital letters used primarily only to start sentences or proper names.The term lowercase is derived from the days of metal type where the more frequently used letters were kept near at hand in the lower case. Unicase: Type design with upper- and lowercase letter forms that share the same height.

  • Unicase: A unicase or unicameral alphabet is one that has no case for its letters. Tamil, Arabic, Old Hungarian, Hebrew, Georgian and Hangul are unicase alphabets, while (modern) Latin, Greek, Cyrillic and Armenian have two cases for each letter, e.g., B/b, Β/β, Б/б.

Italic & oblique
  • Roman: Roman type is the "regular" or upright counterpart of an italic or oblique typeface, regardless of whether the type design is seriffed or a sans serif.

  • Italics: Italic type is a cursive typeface based on a stylized form of calligraphic handwriting. Owing to the influence from calligraphy, such typefaces often slant slightly to the right. Different glyph shapes from roman type are also usually used—another influence from calligraphy. It is therefore distinct from oblique type, in which the font is merely distorted into a slanted orientation. However, uppercase letters are often oblique type or swash capitals rather than true italics.

  • Oblique: Oblique type (or slanted, sloped) is a form of type that slants slightly to the right, used in the same manner as italic type. Unlike italic type, however, it does not use different glyph shapes; it uses the same glyphs as roman type, except distorted. Oblique fonts are usually associated with sans-serif typefaces, especially with geometric faces, as opposed to humanist ones whose design tends to draw more on history. Oblique and italic type are often confused.

Caps
  • Regular: Most typefaces include fonts that vary between uppercases (majuscules) and lowercases (minuscules). Regular caps (regular capitals) are, in contrast to small caps, upper cases that have a different height and weight than the lowercases.

  • Caps: Is the majuscule version of a letter in the modern alphabets (Latin, Greek, Cyrillic and Armenian). Originally alphabets were written entirely in capital letters, spaced between well-defined upper and lower bounds. ’All Caps’ means that only capital letters are used.

  • Small Caps: Small capitals (usually abbreviated small caps) are uppercase (capital) characters set at the same height and weight as surrounding lowercase (small) letters or text figures.

Width
  • Width: Type is also measured in width, or set size. A line of type is measured in ems. An em is equal to the square of the type body. Some typefaces include fonts that vary the width of the characters (stretch). In width, you normally operate with 4 categories: condensed, regular, wide and super wide. Most typefaces either have proportional or monospaced letter widths.

  • Condensed: Narrower fonts are usually labeled compressed, condensed or narrow. A condensed font can be further classified by prepending extra, ultra, super or the like.

  • Regular: The Regular width of a font is the standard, the focal point for either condensing or widening the font.

  • Wide: Wider fonts may be called wide, extended or expanded. A wide font can be further classified by prepending extra, ultra, super or the like.

  • Super wide: The greater width the louder the typography speaks. Super wide is mostly used for display purposes or statements that are relatively emphasized compared to the rest of the text.

Weights
  • Weight: The weight of a particular font is the thickness of the character outlines relative to their height. There are many names used to describe the weight of a font in its name, differing among type foundries and designers, but their relative order is usually fixed. The terms normal, regular and plain, sometimes also book, are being used for the standard weight font of a typeface. Where both appear and differ, book is often lighter than regular, but in some typefaces it is bolder.

Language
  • Latin: In modern usage, the term Latin alphabet is used for any direct derivation of the alphabet first used to write Latin. These variants may discard letters from the classical Roman script (like the Rotokas alphabet) or add new characters to it, as from the Danish and Norwegian alphabet. Letter shapes have changed over the centuries, including the creation of entirely new lower case characters.

  • Greek: The Greek alphabet is a set of twenty-four letters that has been used to write the Greek language since the 8th century BC. It is still in use today. It is the first and oldest alphabet in the narrow sense that it notes each vowel and consonantwith a separate symbol. The letters were also used to represent Greek numerals, beginning in the 2nd century BC.

  • Cyrillic: The development of Cyrillic typography passed directly from the medieval stage to the late Baroque, without a Renaissance phase as in Western Europe. Late Medieval Cyrillic letters (still found on many icon inscriptions even today) show a marked tendency to be very tall and narrow; strokes are often shared between adjacent letters.

Kerning
  • Kerning: Also known as mortising is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font (vs. monospaced font), usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Kerning moves the letters closer together (negative spacing) vs. tracking which moves the letters further apart (positive spacing). In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have similar area.

Tracking
  • Tracking: Also called letter-spacing, refers to the amount of space between a group of letters to affect density in a line or block of text. Letter-spacing can be confused with kerning. Letter-spacing refers to the overall spacing of a word or block of text affecting its overall density and texture. Kerning is a term applied specifically to the adjustment of spacing of two particular characters to correct visually uneven spacing.

Leading
  • Leading: refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type. The term is still used by 'professionals' and in modern page layout software. In consumer-oriented word processing software, this concept is usually referred to as "line spacing" or "interline spacing." As with all matters of typography, it is a fine balance between reading comfort and aesthetics.

Numbers
  • Tabular lining figures: Numbers that share identical character widths (that is, they are monospaced). Using tabular figures enables you to set columns of numbers, and have them neatly line up vertically. This is especially useful for tables, thus "tabular". Tabular figures are often lining.

  • Proportional lining figures: Proportional figures are different from Tabular figures in their total character width. They are spaced to fit together more like letters. For instance, the figure 1 is very narrow like the letter l and takes up less width than the number 6. Because their spacing appears more even, these figures are best in texts and headings where columnar alignment is not necessary.

  • Oldstyle lining: Old-style figures is the other numeral form (than lining) used by western languages, in which numerals 0, 1, and 2 are at x-height; numerals 6 and 8 have bowls within x-height, and ascenders; numerals 3, 5, 7, and 9 have descenders from x-height; and the numeral 4 rests along the baseline.

  • Superscript and subscript: A subscript or superscript is a number, figure, symbol, or indicator that appears smaller than the normal line of type and is set slightly below or above it – subscripts appear at or below the baseline, while superscripts are above. Subscripts and superscripts are perhaps best known for their use in formulas, mathematical expressions, and descriptions of chemical compounds or isotopes, but have many other uses as well.

  • Fractions: Fractions are mostly divided into three categories: basic, extended and arbitrary. Basic fractions are ¼, ½ and ¾ – a standard in most fonts in all formats. Extended fractions are found in many, but not all fonts, and usually include 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8, and sometimes 1/3 and 2/3. Arbitrary fractions include anything and everything else, such as 18/256.