Etudes for Microsoft Word Programmers. Appendix.

Up ]

Information on this page is from "ParaType" web site

Typographic Dictionary



Serif typefaces

Another way to describe letters with serifs. Those lower case letterforms are derived from Humanist minuscule of Italian Renaissance and upper case letterforms derived from Roman Capitalis Monumentalis. The first antiqua type was created in Italy and Germany in the second half of the 15th century and was improved in the 1470s by Nicholas Jenson of Venice.


The openings of letters such as C, c, S, s, a and e. Some faces like Futura have large apertures, while others like Helvetica have small apertures. Very large apertures occur in archaic Greek inscriptions and in typefaces such as Lithos, which are derived from them.


The peak of a triangle where two diagonal or vertical and diagonalstrokes meet. Examples: A, M, W etc.


The American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a standard character set defined by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. Based on 7-bit index, so the maximum number of characters is 128.

Aspect ratio

The ratio of width to height.
Character proportion is the relation of character height to character width. Proportion may vary from very condensed styles to extended ones. Standard proportional increments are known as ultra condensed, extra condensed, condensed, normal, expanded, extra expanded, and ultra expanded. Condensed proportions are sometimes referred to as compressed, elongated, or narrow, and expanded styles could be describe as wide, extended, or stratched.


The imaginary line on which the letters of a font sit.


A class ofblackletter types. Bastarda appeared in the 14th century as a chancery script. It is an intermediate form between Textura and Rotunda. In Germany it was called Schwabacher (Schwabish script). Lowercase forms are relatively wide with small x-height and visible double break and have a lot of rounded shapes. Caps are wide and simple, with a lot of rounded shapes.
See also Bastarda (Schwabacher) in Classification section.


A bicameral alphabet has two alphabets joined. The Latin alphabet, which you are reading, is an example; it has an uppercase and lowercase. Unicameral alphabets (the Arabic and Hebrew alphabets) have only one case.


1. In metal type — the rectangle of metal on which the image of a character was cast.
2. In Photo or digital type — the rectangular notional space occupied by the letter. Also a font for the article body.


A weight of a type. A blacker, heavier variation of a typeface, relative to the roman variation. Used for headlines and display matters. The first bold face was created ca. 1800 by London type founder Robert Thorne (1754–1820) as a singular type for poster and display setting. Bold faces were used for text emphasis since the end of the19th century.


Ornament constructed of decorative units in the form of edging strip. Used for display matters.

Upper case
Uc letter

Capitals, or uppercase letters. ALL CAPS LOOK LIKE THIS. A relatively modern innovation. The Romans, Greeks, and Oriental peoples never distinguished capitals from small letters. All these earlier languages used two forms — a carefully drawn form of writing with separate signs on official documents and monuments and a less carefully drawn form of cursive (running) writing with roundish and often joined signs on less official documents, such as letters. During the Middle Ages a form of capital letters called uncials was developed. Uncials (from a Latin word “uncia” meaning "inch-high") were squarish in shape, with rounded strokes. They were used in Western Europe in handwritten books, side by side with small-letter cursive writing, used in daily life. After the Renaissance and the introduction of printing in Europe, two types of letters were distinguished: the majuscules, which were formed as an imitation of the ancient Latin characters, and the minuscules, which continued the tradition of the medieval cursive writing.


A symbol in writing. A letter, punctuation mark, or figure.


A unit of measurement used to measure typefaces. It is equal to 12 Didot points, a slightly larger continental European counterpart to the American and British point.


Suite of characters in definite order. Usually Encoding contains a character set that covers languages of similar alphabets. Due to historical reasons two main computer platforms -- Mac and Windows use close by set, but different by order encodings for fonts. Parallel encodings -- Windows Western and Mac Roman contain the caps and lower case of English alphabet, national letters of the most European languages (Danish, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Iceland, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, etc.), figures, punctuation marks, ligatures and other sorts.


One of the two ancient Slavonic alphabets named after St. Cyril (Constantine the Philosopher). It was invented in the 9th century based on the Greek ecclesiastical majuscule script. There were several scribal Cyrillic hands: Ustav, Poluustav, Skoropis’, and Vyaz’. The first printed Cyrillic book was published in Krakow in 1491 by Schweipolt Feol (Feyl, Feyol), and its type was cut by Rudolf Borsdorf (Ludolf Borchdorp) of Braunschweig. Cyrillic alphabet was reformed by Tzar Peter I in 1708–10. As a result the Cyrillic letterforms became close to Roman ones. The Modern Byelorussian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian alphabets were made-up based on the ancient Cyrillic script. In the 1920–30s alphabets of most former USSR peoples and Mongolia were created based on the Russian alphabet.


Typographical characters that have no apparent relation to an alphabet. Many dingbats are pictograms — tiny pictures of telephones, skiers, airplanes, churches, and the like, used in the travel industry. Others are more abstract. Also typefaces that consist entirely of symbol characters such as pictures, decorations, arrows and bullets.

Dots per Inch

The measure of resolution for a monitor or printer. High-resolution printers work at over 1200 dpi; most laser printers have a resolution of 300–600 dpi; and monitors around 72 dpi.

Drop cap

A large initial capital in a paragraph that extends through several lines and is aligned with the top of the first line. This method is used to indicate the start of a new section of a text, such as a chapter.


Character or font encoding is a code that pairs a set of natural language characters (such as an alphabet) with a set of numbers (see Codepage). Encoding depends on operating system and usually has a name or index. For example Cyrillic encoding or codepage for MS Windows is "CP 1251" and for Mac OS it is "Macintosh Cyrillic".


(1) The features by which a character’s design is recognized, hence the word face. Within the Latin language group of graphic shapes are the following forms: Uncial, Blackletter, Serif, Sans Serif, Scripts, and Decorative. Each form characterizes one or more designs. Example: Serif form contains four designs called Old Style, Transitional, Modern, and Slab Serif designs. The typeface called Bodoni is a Modern design, while Times Roman is a Transitional design. We need to realistically expect that this hierarchy will be expanded to include grafts and elements of the more experimental graphic faces. The category of Art Damaged or Distressed fonts is one example of an extension of the traditional groupings of face forms.
(2) One of type variants (styles) included in Type family. Typeface styles may vary on their Weight, Proportion, and Posture (be upright, Slanted or Italic). So typeface styles may be described as Light, Book, Bold, Narrow, Expanded and so on.

Character set

In modern usage the term “font” is often confused with “typeface” and “family”. Traditionally, the term “font” (originally spelt “fount” in Britain) represents a complete set of characters or symbols of the same size and style. Fonts can be as small as the basic alphabet or up to hundreds of characters. Some languages, like Japanese, can exceed these numbers, which make them more difficult to access from the standard keyboard. Originally derived from the word “found” as in typefoundry. Now it is used as another name for a single weight or style of a typeface.

Font attributes

Characteristics which apply to the font as a whole (such as the ascent, descent, leading, etc.).

Fraction bar

Special symbol which is used for fractions. Fraction bar should not be confused with slash.

Headline font
Display font

A font that has been designed to look good at large point sizes for use in headlines. Headline fonts generally do not contain a complete set of characters since they do not require a full set of special symbols and punctuation. In mechanical composition systems, type above 14 pt.


The splitting of a word across lines, as an aid to uniform line breaking.


Ikarus was the original digital outline type technology, developed through the 1970s by Peter Karow at URW in Hamburg. It was the first typeface digitization program to include an interpolation facility. Originally running only on expensive graphics workstations, Ikarus is available now for Macintosh, Windows and Unix workstations from URW++. TrueType and Type 1 fonts can be generated, but its TrueType hinting capabilities are limited – like in most font editing tools.


Small characters, usually smaller than x-heght, placed on or below the baseline and used for footnotes and fractions.

Initial cap

The beginning of a chapter or section is sometimes given emphasis by enlarging the initial letter of the first paragraph. A descending initial aligns the top of the enlarged character with the top of the first line of text, and aligns the bottom of the enlarged character with the base line of the last line of text that it displaces. An ascending initial keeps its baseline aligned with the first line of the paragraph. When an enlarged initial capital is used, the word, phrase, or line which it begins may be set in uppercase or in small caps. If the first word of a proper name is set in this way, the remaining words of the name should be as well.


Name of some fonts from a Clarendon group of typefaces. Sometime also used as a synonym of a Egyptian fonts.


A sloped or cursive variation of Roman. In most cases this represents a complementary style of the upright letter, although some of the lowercase letters may change form slightly and the serif structure is different. Modern usage requires an italic to accompany a roman in most types designed for continuous reading.


Generically, placing lines of text in a particular relationship to one or both margins. As distinct from flush left or flush right, justified text has both the left and right margins even.

Justified text

A block of text that has been spaced so that the text aligns on both the left and right margins. Justified text has a more formal appearance, but may be harder to read.


Part of a letter that extends into the space of another. In many alphabets, the Roman f has a kern to the right, the Roman j a kern to the left. As a verb, to kern means to alter the fit of certain letter combinations - TA or VA, for example - so that the limb of one projects over or under the body or limb of the other.


The adjustment of horizontal space between individual characters in a line of text. Adjustments in kerning are especially important in large display and headline text lines. Without kerning adjustments, many letter combinations can look awkward. The objective of kerning is to create visually equal spaces between all letters so that the eye can move smoothly along the text. In traditional metal typography, a kern is the part of a letter that extends beyond the left or right edge of the rectangular type body. Some automatic typesetting machines (e.g. the Monotype) could handle kerned type, but others forced all the character to be within the rectangular body. The Linotype was one of the latter, resulting in many inelegant italic letters - it's the cause of Sabon's many admirable workarounds. Being fragile, kerns could break off if the type was mishandled. In digital typography, kerning has a different meaning. The old worry about fragility has disappeared (although some old formats, e.g. FNT, still restricted the design to the rectangular body); so the italic f can keep its grace. Digital kerning (or, more precisely, "pair kerning") allows the spacing between any pair of characters to be specified, allowing, for example, an r following a T to nestle underneath the right-hand bar slightly, or an LY pair to nudge closer together. It is normally the task of the type designer (or digitizer) to devise all the kerning values. In the days of metal, these adjustments were only possible with extreme labour, and were almost never seen. In TrueType, pair kerning has always been possible in the 'kern' table, where character combinations are stored with the amount (in font design units) to shift the second character when it comes after the first. Not all applications bother to use kerning information, so the default rectangular body should always be very carefully controlled. Triple-kerning (such as for the occasionally troublesome combination f.”) is supported in OpenType and TrueType GX.


Adjusting the average distance between letters in a block of text to fit text into the given space or to improve legibility. Kerning allows adjustments between individual letters; letterspacing is applied to a block of text as a whole. Also called tracking or track kerning. See also Tracking.

Interletter space

The horizontal space between individual letterforms within a single word. Interletter space may be adjusted as a function of the letters (see kerning), but its proper value is an integral part of the typeface design.


The amount of space added between lines of text to make the document legible or the total height from baseline to baseline of rows of text. The term originally referred to the thin lead spacers that printers used to physically increase space between lines of metal type. Most applications automatically apply standard leading of 120% of the font's point size.

lc character
Small character

Noncapital letters such as a, b, c, etc. Derived from the practice of placing these letters in the bottom (lower) case of a pair of typecases.


Layout as a process (locating and formatting text on the page).
Layout as a result (page itself).


The standard length of the line; i.e., column width or width of the overall typeblock, usually measured in picas.

Monospaced fonts
Monowide fonts

Like typewritten characters, these all have the same width and take up the same amount of space. Use of this type allows figures to be set in vertical rows without leaving a ragged appearance (as opposed to proportional type).


A sloped Roman in which the characters retain their Roman shapes. The inclination is generally less than in a normal italic. Often confused with Italic.


The font format that (in some ways) unites TrueType and Type 1, jointly developed by Adobe and Microsoft. Key features of the old formats live on as the two “flavours” of OpenType, but much information is now identically formatted.


(1) A digital representation of an image (such as an alphabetic character) where solid shapes are represented by the mathematical curves approximating their outlines. Circles, ellipses, quadratic and cubic curves have been used in different outline representations. Outlines are nicely scalable (and transformable in other ways), unlike bitmap representations. Glyph outlines in TrueType consist of a series of points, each being either “on-curve” or “off-curve”. Consecutive on-curve points define a straight line. Consecutive off-curve points have an on-curve point interpolated between them by the scan-converter. A quadratic Bezier curve is defined by a sequence of on-curve, off-curve, on-curve. There's an index to where each contour ends. Contours are self-closing.
(2) Decorative style as on the left picture.


A sentence containing every letter of the alphabet. Useful in font demonstrations. Frequently used are phrases like “How razorback-jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts!” or "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. But less common are “The risque gown makes a very brazen exposure of juicy flesh” or “Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward” or even “The sex life of the woodchuck is a provocative question for most vertebrate zoology majors” and the even more rare “Jelly-like above the high wire, six quaking pachyderms kept the climax of the extravaganza in a dazzling state of flux”.


A font substitution system (in full, PANOSE 1.0) stored in TrueType fonts as 10 digits in the ‘OS/2’ table. Applications wishing to determine the closest installed font to a requested, but absent, font compute the typographic “distance” (that's a distance measured in 10-dimensional PANOSE-space!) from each installed font to the requested one, whose PANOSE bytes are known. Finally, the installed font with the minimum distance is used. The system was developed by ElseWare Corporation, which was taken over by Hewlett-Packard. There's also PANOSE 2.0, a major extension into parametric font territory.


A unit of measurement equaling 12 points, or 1/6 inch, in the Anglo-American point system. The Didot equivalent of a pica is called cicero.


A dot in a raster image which can be turned on (printed) or off (not printed) to form the image.


A unit of measurement equaling .01383 inch, the basis of the Anglo-American point system. The Didot equivalent, called corps, measures .01483 inch.

Point Size

The height of the type body, expressed in points. A standard type measurement system was originally developed by the Parisian type founder Pierre Fournier Le Jeune in 1737. In the days of metal type, the point size was the total number of points in the height of metal type, including the ascent and descent of the letters, and the metal above and below the letters (i.e., built-in leading).


The printer language developed by Adobe Systems, and used in professional printing. Broadly, it works by describing the output as a series of geometric shapes, rather than the traditional rows of dots, making it easier to work at higher and different resolutions. Type 1 fonts use the PostScript language.


A unit of measurement equaling 4 cicero or 48 points.

Raised cap

A design style in which the first capital letter of a paragraph is set in a large point size and aligned with the baseline of the first line of text. See also Drop Cap.

Reference mark

Special symbols that is used for references.

Sans Serif


From the Latin sans serif without serifs. Sans serif & slab seriftype forms made their first appearances around 1815–1817. Both are marked by simpler letterforms with (usually) relatively uniform strokeweight, lacking significant contrast, often geometric in underlying design. The earliest forms of sans and slab typefaces tended to be heavy, often monolithic, display faces, but there quickly evolved a wide range ofstyles. Although the earliest designs are not much used today, their descendants are common enough. Sans serif letters have no serifs, as the name suggests. The low contrast and absence of serifs makes most sans typefaces harder to follow for general reading. They are fine for a sentence, passable for a paragraph, but are difficult to use well in, say, the text of a book. The terminology of sans serif types can be confusing: essentially, gothic or grotesque are both generic names for sans serif. In sans serif faces, the italics are often, although not always, simply a sloped (mechanically obliqued) version of the roman letters, making them totally subordinate to the roman. By far the most common sans is Helvetica (1951, Miedinger), despite being abhorred by many typographers. Helvetica does have the advantage of coming in a huge range of weights and widths, which makes it versatile, and its ubiquitous character makes it easy to match. Other general-purpose sans serifs include Univers (Frutiger, 1952+), Arial (Monotype), Franklin Gothic (M.F. Benton, 1903) and Frutiger (Frutiger, 1975). Sprouting from the Art Deco movement in the 1920s and '30s (see Art Deco), radical geometrical shapes began to be used as the basis for sans serif designs. There are a few other common sans faces which do not fall cleanly into the above categories. Eric Gill's 1928 Gill Sans has an almost architectural quality, and its greater contrast and humanistic design makes it better-suited than most sans serif typefaces to setting bodies of text. The same can perhaps be said of a number of late 20th Century humanistic sans faces.


(1) A stroke added to the beginning or the end of one of the main strokes of a letter. In the roman alphabet, serifs are usually reflexive finishing strokes, forming unilateral or bilateral stops. (They are unilateral if they project only to one side of the main stroke, like the serifs at the head of T and the foot of L, and bilateral if they project to both sides, like the serifs at the foot of T and the head of L.) Transitive serifs — smooth entry or exit strokes — are the norm in italic. There are many descriptive terms for serifs, especially as they have developed in roman faces. They may be not only unilateral or bilateral, but also long or short, thick or thin, pointed or blunt, abrupt or adnate, horizontal or vertical or oblique, tapered, triangular and so on. In blackletters they are frequently scutulate (diamond shaped), and in some script faces, such as Tekton, the serifs are virtually round. (Not all type historians agree that the word serif should be used in the relation to italic letters. But some term is is necessary to denote the difference between, for example, Bembo italic and Gil Sans italic. The former is described as a serified italic, the latter as unserified).
See also a picture of
serif styles

(2) The name of typefaces with serifs. See Antiqua.

Body size
Point size

The height of the face of the type. Originally, this meant the height of the face of the metal block on which each individual letter was cast. In digital type, it is the height of its imaginary equivalent, the rectangle defining the space owned by a given letter (different from the dimension of the letter itself).


An oblique stroke used for separation in dictionaries and linguistics. Medieval scribes used it as a form of comma. Slash should not be confused with fraction bar or solidus.

Small capitals

A set of capital letters having almost the same height as the lowercase x-height (in fact they are a little higher). Small caps are frequently used for cross references and abbreviations. They are known in Europe from the 16th century in printing books. Often abbreviated s.c.


Horizontal spacing, i.e., the spacing between words and between letters on a line, is most often measured in ems and ens. An em is a space equal to the current point size. An en is one-half the width of an em. So a 12-point font would have a 12 point em and a 6 point en, while an 8-point font would have an 8 point em and a 4 point en. A regular space between words is held to be one-third of an em.In justified type the inter-word spacing is necessarily going to vary. The more narrow a column-width, the more variation will occur in the spacing of justified type. This is one argument in favor of unjustified text where the line-length is very short. Ideally, words in regular text should not be spaced apart more than an en or less than a quarter em (one "thin space"). Thin spaces are often used to separate dashes from adjacent words, and single quotes from double quotes. Letterspacing is more easily and smoothly accomplished today than in the age of hot type, but it is often abused. When used for effect in headings, it is important to also space the words themselves widely enough apart to separate them clearly. Letter spacing in justified text should be used sparingly.


Small characters above another characters. Used in mathematician and chemistry formulae, fractions, reference marks etc.

Text faces
Body faces

Fonts for setting of text material, usually in sizes from 6 to 12 points. Also called body faces.

Titling type

A font of capitals, occupying most of the body of the type. It follows that a 24-point titling type is considerably larger in face than a corresponding 24-point, in which there is a lowercase alphabet.


The overall letterspacing in text. Tracking can also be used to tighten or loosen a block of type. Some programs have automatic tracking options which can add or remove small increments of space between the characters.


A digital font format developed by Apple and Microsoft. The rendering engine for this font was built into System 7. It was also built into MS Windows 3.1. Like PostScript Type 1 and Type 3 fonts, it is an outline font format that allows both the screen and printers to scale fonts to display them in any size. Offers a competitive alternative to PostScript font technology.

Type family

A family of type styles that vary on their weight, proportion, and angle of character slant but have the common family name and similar style features. Also sometimes type family means the same as Typeface.


An international standard for character mappings, based on aò extended (mostly 16-bit) index. Unicode is supported in TrueType and OpenType font formats.


Depending on alignment, this term refers to text which is set flush left, flush right, or centered.

Vector fonts
Outline fonts

Type of font format, examples include TrueType and Type 1 formats. A vector font descibes each letter or symbol as a series of geometric shapes, rather than as rows of dots (like a bitmap font). They can easily be resized without losing quality.


A letter's relative amount of blackness. Proper terminology for weight has never been precisely determined. In types used for continuous reading, two weights are generally used the original design, called either regular or light, and a boldface. Square serif and sans serif types have as many as eight or nine different weights, differently described by each manufacturer. Most likely this imprecision can never be corrected.

Word space
Interword space

The space between words. When type is set FL/RR, the word space may be of fixed size, but when the type is justified, the word space must be elastic.


The distance between the Baseline and the Midline of an alphabet, which is normally the approximate height of the unextended Lowercase letters - a, c, e, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z - and of the torso of b, d, h, k, p, q, y. The relation of x-height to Cap height, and the relation of x-height to length of extenders, are two important characteristics Latin typeface.


Etudes for Microsoft Word Programmers. Appendix. Typographic Dictionary.

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this site are
© 2000-2009 Evgeny Akhundzhanov, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Microsoft is in no way affiliated with, nor offers endorsement of, this site. | E-mail the Author