Glossary of fonts

jaggies The stepped effect of bit-mapped type and graphics caused when square pixels represent diagonal or curved lines. justification

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The stepped effect of bit-mapped type and graphics caused when square pixels represent diagonal or curved lines.

Slight adjustments made to the space bands within a line of type so that it fully extends to a particular line length.

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.

To adjust the length of the line so that it is flush left and right on the measure. Type is commonly set either justified or FL/RR (flush left, ragged right).



kappa Κ κ
Eleventh letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in ASCII 75, the space for capital K. It looks exactly like a K.

(noun) That portion of a letter which extends beyond its width, that is, the letter shapes that overhang — the projection of a character beyond its sidebearings. In many alphabets, the roman f has a kern to the right, the roman j a kern to the left, and the italic f one of each. (verb): To adjust the intercharacter spacing in character groups (words) to improve their appearance. Some letter combinations (“AV” and “To”, for example) appear farther apart than others because of the shapes of the individual letters. Many sophisticated word processors move these letter combinations closer together automatically.


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. Kerning may be applied automatically by the desktop publishing program based on tables of values. Some programs also allow manual kerning to make fine adjustments.

keyboard layout / keyboard mapping
Sometimes known as a character mapping, a keyboard layout or mapping is a table used by a computer operating system to govern which character code is generated when a key or key combination is pressed.



lachrymal terminal
see teardrop terminal

Lambda 
Twelfth letter of the Greek Alphabet. The font Symbol most often used on American Computers to Type Cyrillic Letters places it in ASCII 76- the space for capital “L”. It looks exactly like a capital “A” with the crossbar removed. The lowercase lambda reduces the letter, makes it slightly more cursive and adds an ascender from the rightmost limb.

A Roman stone cutter of inscriptions.

laser printer
A high-resolution printer that uses a version of the electrostatic reproduction technology of copying machines to fuse text and graphic images to paper. To print a page, the printer’s controller circuitry receives the printing instructions from the computer and builds a bit map of every dot on a page. The controller ensures that the print engine’s laser transfers a precise replica of this bit map to a photostatically sensitive drum or belt. Switching on and off rapidly, the beam travels across the drum, and as the beam moves, the drum charges the areas exposed to the beam. The charged areas attract toner (electrically charged ink) as the drum rotates past the toner cartridge. An electrically charged wire pulls the toner from the drum onto the paper, and heat rollers fuse the toner to the paper. A second electrically charged wire neutralizes the drum’s electrical charge. See light-emitting diode (LED) printer and resolution.


A general term to describe the design of any finished piece of artwork or publication, includes all text and graphic elements.

Strings of a character, usually periods or dashes, to lead the eye across the space between items in adjacent columns. Usually found in tables, such as tables of contents.

Spacing between lines of text. Pronounced “ledding,” the term originally referred to the thin lead spacers that printers used to physically increase space between lines of metal type. Most software applications automatically apply standard leading based on the point size of the font. Closer leading fits more text on the page, but decreases legibility. Looser leading spreads text out to fill a page and makes the document easier to read. Leading can also be negative, in which case the lines of text are so close that they overlap or touch. The relationship between type size and leading can be influenced by many things. The longer a line of type is, the more leading is needed so that the eye may more easily move from the end of one line to the beginning of another. Two typefaces of the same point size may appear to be very different in size if their x-height is different. Generally, the greater the x-height, the more leading a typeface requires. Inter-word spacing is another consideration: lines of type that have words widely spaced apart become particularly difficult to read with narrow leading. Finally, the use of the text must be kept in mind. Reference material, intended to be read in small amounts at any one time, can be leaded more closely than a novel or short story. For continuous text, a beginning rule of thumb would provide leading of about 20% of point size, e.g. about 2 points of lead for fonts 8-point to 12-point.

Or sheet; a single surface of paper or other writing surface.

The lower diagonal stroke of the letter k.

In typography, usually taken to mean “easily read.” Applies more specifically to craft of typeface and its individual ease of decipherability, while readability is often used interchangably, but should apply to other external factors. Legibility is to some extent open to personal interpretation, and is influenced by many factors, such as the intended audience for the type, the circumstances under which it would be viewed, and the purpose for which it is displayed. For a given typeface, its legibility depends in part on the qualities inherent in its design, and also partly upon the way it is used. Serif type, for instance, is generally more legible than sans-serif type because of the greater variety of its letterforms, and yet in certain low-resolution applications, such as computer video displays, a sans-serif face may be far more legible. (It is important to note also, that many other factors may influence legibility more strongly than the presence of serifs, and that, for instance, a well used sans-serif face will be more legible than a poorly used serif face.) Under most circumstances a serif typeface, neither italic nor boldface, upper and lower case, is the most legible way to set text. Finally, it should be kept in mind that legibility may not always be a designer’s top priority (although illegibility is more usually due to carelessness). In advertising, text is often set more to catch the eye than to deliver meaning. It has also become fashionable in recent years for typestyle to comment upon the content of a text, frequently at the expense of legibility.

A symbol representing, alone or with others, a speech sound and constituting one of the units of an alphabet.

letter families

Those letters within an alphabet which share a common shape, like a, d, g and q in italic.

The making of letters with more strokes than there are parts. (As contrasted with writing, where each letter is made with only as many strokes as there are essential parts.)

letter spacing
Extra space inserted between letters in a word. Also known as kerning.

lettre de forme
A french term for 14th century blackletter.

librarius quadrator
A Roman inscription maker.

ligature Æ œ
A ligature occurs where two or more letterforms are written or printed as a unit. Generally, ligatures replace characters that occur next to each other when they share common components. Ligatures are a subset of a more general class of figures called “contextual forms.” Contextual forms describe the case where the particular shape of a letter depends on its context (surrounding letters, whether or not it’s at the end of a line, etc.). One of the most common ligatures is “fi”. Since the dot above a lowercase i interferes with the loop on the lowercase f, when f and i are printed next to each other, they are combined into a single figure with the dot absorbed into the f. Many typeface families now include ligatures and other special characters like: small caps, lining numerals, oldstyle numerals, vulgar fractions, superior and inferior numerals, swash italic caps, ornaments, long s, and the following ligatures: ff fi fl ffi ffl Rp ct st Sh Si Sl SS St (where S=long s)/ While there are a large number number of possible ligatures, generally only the most common ones are actually provided. (As you can see, most ligatures are not available in HTML.)

line length, optimal

Although opinions vary, 30–35 letters per line for roman alphabes and 45 letters per line for Italic are recommended.

line-screen frequency
When you print a photographic-type grayscale or colored image, you can choose (if you use the right software) the lines per inch setting. This measure refers specifically to halftones or tint screens. (They are called screens because they used to be made by shooting the original image through a “screen,” a piece of mylar with halftone dots or tiny dots embedded in it.)

lining figures
Figures of even height. Usually synonymous with titling figures, but some lining figures are smaller and lighter than the uppercase letters.

The stroke that connects the bowl and the loop of a lowercase roman g.

live space
The space below the writing line, where writing will still be done. see also dead space

A specific typographic form tied to a certain word. Example: the nonstandard capitalization in the names e.e.cummings and PageMaker.

logographic writing
A stage in the development of phonetic writing where a single symbol was employed to represent an entire word.

lowercase figures
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.

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