TYPOGRAPHY TERMINOLOGY

Font-Terms-web
SERIF

Fonts that have “serifs” or feet at the base of letters and at the end of strokes.

SANS SERIF

Fonts without serifs.

BASELINE

The imaginary line upon which most letters “sit” and below which descenders extend.

ASCENDERS

Strokes of letters that rise above the baseline of type (b, d, f, h, k, l, t).

DESCENDERS

Strokes of letters that fall below the baseline of type (g, j, p, q, y).

X-HEIGHT 

The height of the main body of the lowercase letters. Most sans serifs have large x-heights.

LEADING 

The amount of white space between lines of text. The standard leading (computer auto leading) is the point size times .2 added to the point size. What? Standard leading on 10 point type is the point size (10) times .2 which would be 2. Add that 2 to the point size which would give you 12. So auto leading on 10 point type is 12 points.

KERNING 

Adjusting the letter spacing between pairs of letters in type. Use kerning only for display type above 14 point.

MIDLINE (OR MEAN LINE)

The imaginary line which determines the height of lowercase letters and above which ascenders extend.

WEIGHTS 

The stroke of the type such as light, medium, demi, bold, etc. Book or Roman weights are traditionally used for text. Light and bold are best used for contrast in display type.

POSTURE 

The type stroke will either stand upright (Roman) or will lean toward the right (italic).

STRESS 

Draw a line through the thinnest part of the curved strokes on a letter. The stress is the direction of that line. Oldstyle type has a diagonal stress while moderns have a vertical stress, for example.

TRANSITION 

Compare the thickest stroke of a letter to the thinnest. This is the transition. For example, moderns have radical thick/thin transitions while sans serifs have no thick/thin transition.

TYPE FAMILIES

(sometimes referred to as font)
Versatile faces such as Garamond, Franklin Gothic, Futura, etc. offer several variations of weight and posture in the same typeface.

POINT SIZE

How type is measured; one point equals 1/72 of an inch, so 72 point type would be about one inch high.

DISPLAY TYPE 

Point sizes 14 point and above.

WIDTH RULE 

When copy gets too wide, readability drops off. The rule is that copy should be no wider than an alphabet and a half or 39 characters.

TRACKING (LETTER SPACING)

Adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters.

Contributed by:
Lynn Strause
Herff Jones Special Consultant
Former JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year