Paratype Typographic Glossary

Abrupt serif

A serif which breaks suddenly from the stem at an angle.


A diacritical mark over, under, or through a letter indicating a variation in pronunciation or changing in stress. Eg. ç, à, ò, é, Å.


An accent used on vowels – б й н у ъ э – in French, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, Hungarian, Navajo, Gaelic, Czech and many other languages, and on consonants – &#1107 &#1116 &#324 &#341 &#347 &#378 – in Basque, Macedonian, Polish and romanized Sanskrit. In romanized Chinese, it is used with vowels to mark the rising tone. In Russian, it is used on vowels to mark stress in linguistics and text-books. The accented vowels are included in many fonts as composite characters.

Adnate serif

A serif which flows smoothly to or from the stem.


An old name for type size of 5.5 points (~1.94 mm). Also a vertical unit used to measure space in newspaper columns, equal to 5.5 point type.
See details on Typographical Mesurement Systems in Comparison


A set of problematic effects resulting from the usual method of displaying scalable images on low-resolution screens. When converting these images to bitmaps for display, samples are taken from the theoretical mathematical image, usually at the pixel centres. The influence of what is happening at these more or less arbitrary points is thereby greatly exaggerated, causing jagged edges, “pimples” and other undesirable effects. See also Anti-aliasing.


A regularised set of abstract symbols employed in a particular writing system and placed in some order. In the alphabet system each symbol or character marks particular sound of a given speech. The first alphabet systems were invented in the 3rd millennium BC at the East Mediterranean and now they are wide spread over the world for its compactness (usually there are less then a hundred characters per alphabet).


Symbol “&” — a scribal abbreviation for “and”. There are many forms and styles. All of them are derived from the Latin word et. The name originates from the expression “and per se and”. One of the first cases of usage was found in Roman manuscript of 75 AD.


A typographical character used with the alphabet but lacking a place in the alphabetical order. General character set includes figures, punctuation marks, fractions, monetary symbols etc. In some fonts there are analphabetics to compose mathematic formulae, diagrams, maps, ornaments, lines, borders, fleurons etc.

Angle brackets

Left angle bracket “<” and right angle bracket “>”. Angle brackets are useful for many editorial purposes and for mathematics.

Anglo-Am. Points [Anglo-American Points]

Typographic measure system, used in the North America and the United Kingdom. Invented in 1879 by Nelson Hawks. In that system type and lines are measured in points and picas. One point is equal to 0,35146 mm (appr. 1/72 of inch). One pica is equal to 12 points. In the 1980s, Adobe introduced PostScript and corrected the length of point. The PostScript point is precisely 1/72 of inch (0,35278 mm). Text processors and typographic software used PostScript point by default. Therefore that system became de facto a world typographic standard.
See details on Typographical Mesurement Systems in Comparison


One of the solutions of the aliasing problem. In letterforms, jaggedness can be minimized during reconstruction by using various grey levels at the edges of stokes. For example, blurring of a jagged line or edge on a screen to give the appearance of a smooth line.


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.


Also called raised comma or single close quote. A mark of elision in many languages. It grew from that use in English to become also a sign of the possessive. [It’s = it is, but John’s = Johnes = John has = belonging to John.] In many Native American and Slavic languages written in Latin script, it is used with consonants — d’ k’ t’ x’ — to indicate modified pronunciation. Used alone, it serves in many languages as a sign for the glottal stop.

Arabic numerals (Figures, Digits)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0. They were borrowed by Europeans from Arabs who borrowed them earlier from Indians. Therefore these numerals are called sometimes Hindu-Arabic numerals. They were wide-spread in Europe from the second part of the 15th century. Arabic numerals are divided into majuscule numerals (lining, range, headline) and minuscule numerals (old style, text). See also Figures.


Segment of a circle or ellipse, sometimes used to describe part of the boundary of a letterform.
See arc in letter ‘p’ on Letter Elements picture


Short horizontal strokes, as in E, F, L, T.


The part of a lowercase letter that rises above the x-height, as in letters ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘t’ and ‘l’.

Ascender line

The imaginary line marking the topmost point of the ascenders within a font; in many fonts, placed above the cap line.


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. See Proportion.


A superscript * used primarily as a reference mark. In philology and other sciences, it is used to mark hypothetically reconstructed or fetal forms. There are many forms of the asterisk. It appears in the earliest Sumerian pictographic writing and has been in continuous typographic use for at least 5000 years.


See Exclamation mark.

At sign (Commercial at)

A commercial symbol @ that means ‘at’ or ‘at the rate of’. Used mainly in electronic mail addressing and computer operations. It has various forms depending on the typeface but in general it is the italic ‘a’ with surrounding spiral line.


A facility within a font tool to add hints to a font automatically. Most of professional font tools, e.g. FontLab, have such functionality. See Hinting.


An essential element of a letterform. The axis of a letter is the axis of its stroke, which is the angle of the pen used to create the letter. Strokes usually reveal the axis of a letter. Formed by the thinning of the stroke in round letters of Roman origin. In oldstyle types the axis is inclined to the left, while in transitional and modern types it is vertical. Exceptions occur primarily due to vagaries of individual designers. A letter may have multiple axes. Not to be confused with slope.