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DESIGN DEPARTMENT
The Basic Type Glossary

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To talk about type, you have
to understand the basic language of type. The figure identifies the elements
used to describe type and distinguish particular typefaces from one another.
The definitions below explain each element.

 

Arm.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A horizontal stroke that is free on one end. The
upper-case E
has three arms.

 

Ascender.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The part of the lowercase letters <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>b, d, f, h, k, l,
and t
that extends above the height of the lowercase <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>x
.

 

Bar.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The horizontal stroke in the <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>A, H, e, t,
and similar letters.

 

Baseline.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> An imaginary line on which the letters rest. Note
that some curved letters (such as a capital <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>O
) extend slightly below the baseline.

 

Blackletter.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Type designs based on medieval type forms; in England
sometimes called gothic.

 

Bowl.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A curved stroke that makes an enclosed space within a
character. The bump on the letter <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>P
is a bowl. (The enclosed area is the <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>counter; see
below.)

 

Bracket.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A curved fill in the angle created by the
intersection of the serif and main stroke of a letter.

 

Cap
height.
The height of the capital
letters above the baseline.

 

Counter.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The full or partially enclosed space within a
character such as e.

 

Descender.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The part of the letters <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>g, j, p, q, y
, and sometimes <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>J that extends
below the baseline.

 

Ear.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The small stroke projecting from the top of the
lowercase g.

 

Gothic.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Another name for type designed without serifs (sans
serif). Sometimes confused with highly ornate early type designs known as
blackletter.

 

Hairline.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A thin stroke usually found in modern serif
typefaces.

 

Leading<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> (pronounced <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>ledding
). An additional space added
between the bottom of the descenders and the top of the ascenders in subsequent
lines of type (in the metal-type era, this was done with strips of lead).
Usually it is expressed as a baseline-to-baseline measure, e.g., 10-point type
with 12-point leading, which means that 2 points of space have been added
between rows of type.

 

Link.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The stroke connecting the top and the bottom of a
lowercase g.

 

Loop.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The lower portion of the lowercase <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>g (in most
serif typefaces).

 

Monoweight.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A typeface with no thick/thin transition, so that the
widths of all strokes making up the letter are the same.

 

Serif.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A line crossing the ends of the main strokes making
up a letter. There are many varieties of serifs. The serif originated with
ancient stonemasons, who turned their chisels across the groove at the end of a
letter stroke to make a clean, smooth finish for the line when they were
cutting letters into stone. These crosscuts also helped the eye line up the
letters and see them as positioned evenly along the line of words.

 

Shoulder.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The curved stroke of the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>h, m
, and <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>n
.

 

Spine.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The main curved stroke of a lowercase or uppercase <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>S.

 

Spur.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A small projection of a main stroke; found on many
uppercase Gs.

 

Stem.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A straight vertical stroke, or main straight diagonal
stroke in a letter that has no vertical strokes.

 

Stress.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The direction of thickening in a curved stroke. This
is often a clue used to classify a typeface as old-style, transitional, or
modern.

 

Swash.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> A type design with a flourish replacing a terminal or
serif.

 

Tail.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The part of a <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Q
that makes it look different from an <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>O, or the
diagonal stroke of the letter <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>R
.

 

Terminal.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The end of a stroke not terminated with a serif.

 

Thick/thin
transition.
The gradual change in
the width of curved strokes.

 

X-height.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> The height of lowercase characters excluding
ascenders and descenders. The x-height is extremely important in determining
the relative readability of different typefaces. A larger x-height generally
makes a face more readable in a smaller point size.

 

By noting the absence or presence
of type characteristics and their distinctive features, you can quickly
identify a particular typeface from a small sample.

 

This article is derived
from Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and
Publishers
by Pete Masterson. To
order, visit
www.aeonix.com,
or order through Amazon.com

 

Pete Masterson, who has
been an independent book and cover designer since 1996, has been involved in
publishing and printing since 1982, when he pioneered a computerized production
and on-demand printing system for railroad tariffs. He has also owned a print
shop, managed a typesetting service working with major publishers, and
supervised graphics and publication production at NASA Ames Research Center.

 

 

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