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Chapter 7. Type and Text in Illustrator > Typographic Terminology

Typographic Terminology

An understanding of some basic typographic terminology can be helpful. Figure 7.35 defines several of the terms visually:

  • AlignmentAlso called (incorrectly) justification, this term refers to the positioning of lines of text within a paragraph. Text can be flush left, centered, flush right, or justified (flush left and right). Illustrator allows you to choose two types of justification: All Full Lines and All Lines. The difference is the last line of a paragraph. Under the first option, the last line (if it doesn't extend from margin to margin) is aligned left. With the second option, the word spacing is extended to stretch the line from margin to margin. Text that is flush left, centered, or flush right is sometimes referred to as unjustified. (See also margin and indent.)

  • AscenderThe part of a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height of the font is called an ascender (refer to Figure 7.35). In most fonts, the following letters have ascenders: b, d, f, h, k, and l. (See also descender and x-height.)

  • BaselineThe baseline is the imaginary line along which the bottoms of most letters rest (refer to Figure 7.35). Typically, the baseline runs along the bottom of the ends of letter strokes rather than along the curves of rounded letters. In the font used in Figure 7.35, the baseline is established by the letters x, r, and l, whereas the rounded bottoms of the letters p, e, and t extend slightly below the baseline.

  • BodyAlso called body text, this is the majority of the text in most documents.The body text in an office memo or letter, as well as many publications, is typically 10- or 12-point type.

  • BoldText that is visually heavier than the regular text of the same font family is bold. It is thickened, as if drawn with heavier strokes. Emphasis within body text is usually italicized rather than bolded; however, bold is often appropriate for headlines and as a visual reference to items in a list. Bold is a weight rather than a style. (See also style and weight.)

  • Cap heightThe height of most capital letters in a font, measured from the baseline, is the cap height (refer to Figure 7.35). It may or may not be the same height as the font's ascenders. (See also ascender.)

  • CharacterAn individual letter, number, or symbol is a character. That particular character can be represented by numerous glyphs in a font family. For example, the lowercase letter a is a character, but it can be represented by regular, italic, bold, and small-cap glyphs. Note that the lowercase a and uppercase A are considered different characters. (See also glyphs.)

  • CIDA type of font, CID (Character ID) allows for a vastly larger number of characters in a single font. CID, which is an Adobe technology, uses a different system of identification for each glyph. (See also glyphs.)

  • CJK (Chinese-Japanese-Korean)Rather than letters, CJK fonts consist of characters that represent words or ideas. CJK fonts require a very large number of characters, so they usually are double-byte fonts. CJK fonts have special rules and options within Illustrator. A computer's operating system must have the capability to use CJK fonts before they can be employed in Illustrator. (See also double-byte fonts.)

  • CondensedA version of a font in which each glyph is narrower than the regular is called condensed. This is a style. (See also extended and style.)

  • CopyfittingThe process of making a certain quantity of text fit into a specific area is called copyfitting. It is usually accomplished by adjusting the size and spacing of type, not by editing the text.

  • DescenderThe part of a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline is called a descender (refer to Figure 7.35). In most fonts, the following characters have descenders: g, j, q, and y. (See also ascender and baseline.)

  • Dingbats/wingdings— See symbol.

  • Double-byte fontsThese fonts, including most CJK fonts, use two bytes of information to record the character identification. Using two bytes allows for a far greater number of characters in a single font. (Single-byte fonts are limited to 256 glyphs.) (See also CJK, glyphs, and single-byte fonts.)

  • Drop capAn initial letter of a paragraph set in a larger size and top-aligned with the first line is called a drop cap. Cap is a shortened version of capital, referring to an uppercase letter. (See also raised cap.)

  • EllipsisThree periods in a row, this symbol indicates that one or more words are missing, usually from a quotation. Rather than type three periods, you can insert the individual symbol in many fonts. Option+semicolon [Alt+semicolon] is the usual keystroke. Ellipses (the plural) are often smaller than three periods.

  • Em space/em dashA standard unit of measure within a font, em refers to the font's point size. The name comes from the width of an uppercase M. An em dash is a dash one em in width. (See also en space/en dash.)

  • En space/en dash— A standard unit of measure within a font, an en is one-half the font's point size. The name comes from the width of an uppercase N. An en dash is a dash one en in width. (See also em space/en dash.)

  • ExtendedA version of a font in which each glyph is wider than the regular is called extended. This is a style. (See also condensed and style.)

  • Fixed pitchA font whose characters each require the same amount of space on a line is said to be fixed pitch. The terms fixed width and monospaced are also used. (See also proportional.)

  • Font/face/font familyThese terms are often used interchangeably, but technically they are not all the same. Font and face can be used to refer to a specific typeface in a specific weight and style. A group of related fonts is called a font family. For example, Times Roman 12 pt, Times Roman 18 pt, and Times Bold 12 pt are all fonts within the Times font family. (See also style, typeface, and weight.)

  • Font size— See point/point size and Figure 7.35.

  • GlyphsA glyph is a particular character of a font. Although the lowercase a can be called a character, each separate rendition of the letter is a glyph. For example, the regular lowercase a, its italic and bold counterparts, and the small caps version are all separate glyphs of a single character. (See also character and font/face/font family.)

  • GreekingWhen type is too small to be properly displayed onscreen, it is replaced with a gray bar that represents the line at its approximate length. The size at which type is greeked is set in Illustrator's preferences (Edit, Preferences, Type & Auto Tracing). Greeking does not affect printed output.

  • Hanging indentWhen the first line of a block of type is left-aligned and the remaining lines are indented, the paragraph can be said to have a hanging indent.

  • Hanging punctuationPunctuation that extends past the margin of a block of text is called hanging punctuation. Typically, this refers to the right margin of text, although hyphens and dashes can extend past the left margin. The full-sized punctuation marks, such as the exclamation mark and question mark, are not included. The purpose of hanging punctuation is to give the margin of text a cleaner look.

  • Head/headlineType that is set apart from (usually above) the body text and is designed to introduce the subject of the body is headline text. It is usually larger or otherwise emphasized. The term can also refer to fonts and font families designed to be used for headlines.

  • HintingHints are the instructions included with a font to make it display and output properly at different sizes and resolutions.

  • IndentA block or line of text that is moved away from the edge of the text alignment is said to be indented. The first line of a paragraph, moved inward from the left alignment, is indented. An entire paragraph moved in from the left alignment shared by other paragraphs is indented. Paragraphs can be indented left, right, or both.

  • ItalicA slanted version of a font is called italic. It is used for emphasis in both headline and body text.

  • Justification— See alignment.

  • Kerning— The spacing between a pair of adjacent letters is kerning. The goal of kerning is to produce uniform visual spacing between letters. Kerning is of particular importance for headline type. (See also letter spacing.)

  • LeadingThe space between lines of type is referred to as leading. (The term is pronounced like the metal, not like the verb to lead.) In the days when type was set by hand, thin strips of soft metal were added between lines to separate them.

  • LetterformThe actual shape of an individual character or glyph is sometimes referred to as its letterform. Illustrator allows you to alter the paths that create the letterform. The type, however, becomes compound paths, can no longer be edited as type, and can no longer be hinted when scaled.

  • Letter spacingAlthough kerning applies to and is applied to a pair of letters, letter spacing (also called tracking) works with an entire block of text. It alters the average space between letters in the copyfitting process or to improve appearance. (See also copyfitting, kerning, and word spacing.)

  • LigatureTwo lowercase letters combined into a single glyph are referred to as a ligature. Ligatures are designed to improve the look of the letter combinations. The letter combinations are fi, fl, ff, ffi, and ffl. The first two are often built into fonts and can be accessed with the keystrokes Shift+Option+5 [Shift+Alt+5] and Shift+Option+6 [Shift+Alt+6], respectively. The remaining ligatures are available in specialized fonts, usually those with the word expert or pro in their names.

  • MarginThe empty spaces around the left, right, top, and bottom edges of one or more blocks of text are the margins. The term is often used to refer to the invisible line that runs along the alignment of one or more blocks of text, but should properly be used for the empty space beyond the line. Because most printers cannot print all the way to the edge of the paper, margins are necessary. In addition, properly balanced margins increase visual appeal and make text easier to read.

  • Monospace— See fixed pitch.

  • Multiple masterThis type of font allows for customizable optical size, weight, and other adjustments. Such fonts typically have MM in their names. Depending upon the individual multiple master font, Illustrator's MM Design palette allows you to customize a number of appearance factors. Other characteristics, however, may need to be adjusted in Adobe Type Manager (ATM). (See also optical size and weight.)

  • Old-style figuresThe old-style figures are lowercase numbers. They are best used with lowercase type and in body text. Many old-style figures have ascenders and descenders. Old-style figures are usually not mixed with uppercase numbers. A font that includes old-style figures usually indicates this fact in its name. (See also ascender and descender.)

  • OpenTypeA recent type technology developed by Adobe and Microsoft, OpenType fonts are multiplatform and have extended character sets. Illustrator 9 has some support for OpenType fonts but cannot fully take advantage of the hinting capabilities. OpenType fonts can carry an entire font family in a single file, making font management much easier. Smart Punctuation for OpenType fonts in Illustrator 9 is limited to the Macintosh. (See also hinting.)

  • Optical sizeFonts are designed to be used at a particular point size. The shapes of the individual glyphs are balanced for viewing at that size. This is the font's optical size. When a 12-point font is scaled to 72 points, its optical size may be skewed. Multiple master fonts allow adjustment of a font's optical size. (See also multiple master.)

  • PicaA pica is equal to 12 points. In PostScript printing, it is exactly one-sixth of an inch. (See also point/point size.)

  • Point/point sizeA point is 1/72 of an inch. Theoretically, each font is measured from the lowest descender to the highest ascender to determine its point size. There can be wide variances. Points are the most common unit of measure for type in the United States. In Europe, fonts are measured in millimeters using the cap height (refer to Figure 7.35). (See also ascender, cap height, and descender.)

  • ProportionalMost fonts are proportional; each character is allocated a certain required amount of space on a line. The spacing is assigned to increase legibility and visual appeal of the type. (See also fixed pitch.)

  • Raised capAn initial capital (uppercase) letter of a paragraph that is substantially larger than the body text and aligned with the baseline of the following text is a raised cap. (See also drop cap.)

  • RegularThis term refers to the visual weight of a font. Typical body text is usually regular, and the related fonts in the font family may include bold, light, and semi-bold. A font's weight differs from its style. (See also bold, style, and weight.)

  • RomanOne of a font family's styles, Roman is the upright font usually used for body text. It is contrasted with condensed, extended, and italic. (See also condensed, extended, italic, and style.)

  • RuleLines used to separate items on a page are called rules. They are sometimes used between paragraphs or around graphic elements. The current trend is to limit the use of rules.

  • ScalingTo increase or decrease the size of a font is to scale the font. Using another font of the same font family, one designed for use at the size required, is usually better than transforming a font.

  • Serif/sans serifSerifs are the small flourishes at the end of the stroke of a letter, number, or symbol (refer to Figure 7.35). Serif fonts have such decorative strokes, whereas sans serif fonts do not. In most sans serif fonts, the stroke of a letter also has a uniform thickness. Serifs make text easier to read on the printed page, especially at small sizes. Sans serif fonts, on the other hand, are usually preferred when a document will be seen on a computer monitor (including text on the World Wide Web).

  • Single-byte fontsThese fonts, which include most TrueType and Type 1 fonts, use 8 bits (one byte) of information to record character identifications. That limits each font to a maximum of 256 glyphs. (See also double-byte fonts and glyphs.)

  • Small capsOne of a font family's styles, small caps use smaller versions of the uppercase letters to substitute for the lowercase letters. This style is typically used for emphasis within body text and for headlines. It is contrasted with condensed, extended, and italic. (See also condensed, extended, italic, and style.)

  • Smart quotesMany fonts place straight quotes when you press the single or double quotation mark key. Such quotation marks are identical at the beginning and end of any quotation. Smart quotes, on the other hand, use the so-called curly quotes, which point inward toward the quote, at the beginning and end of the quoted material.

  • Spacing— See letter spacing and word spacing.

  • StyleCondensed, extended, italic, Roman, small caps, and underline are examples of styles. The term refers to the appearance of a character or font. Illustrator uses fonts within a font family for styles instead of adding faux styles as do many word processors. A font's style differs from its weight. (See also font/face/font family and weight.)

  • Superscript/subscriptOne or more characters raised above the neighboring text's baseline are said to be superscript. Subscript characters are dropped below the baseline. (See also baseline.)

  • SymbolSome fonts consist of special symbols rather than letters and numbers. Such fonts often have names that include the words symbol, dingbat, or wingding.

  • Tracking— See letter spacing.

  • TypefaceA specific group of letters, numbers, and symbols all designed to be used together at a specific size with a particular weight and style is a typeface. The term typeface is often used interchangeably with font. (See also font/face/font family, style, and weight.)

  • UnderlineText with a line underneath was often used for emphasis with typewriters. Most typewriters had no alternative typefaces, such as italic or bold, available. Underlining is rarely used for emphasis now, with italic being the preferred style. One place where underlined text is common is the World Wide Web. On the Web, however, it should be restricted to indicating a hyperlink.

  • Unjustified— See alignment.

  • WeightBold, light, regular, and semibold are type weights. The term refers to the visual darkness of a font. Illustrator uses fonts within a font family for weight instead of adding a faux weight as do many word processors. (See also font/face/font family and style.)

  • White space— See margin.

  • WidthVariations in a font family's styles may include condensed and extended. They are changes in a font's width. (See also condensed, extended, and style.)

  • Word spacingAdjusting the space between words in a block of text can be done to improve legibility or for the purposes of copyfitting. Such adjustments usually change the average spacing throughout an entire block of text. (See also copyfitting and letter spacing.)

  • WYSIWYGThis acronym, which is pronounced WI-see-wig, stands for What You See Is What You Get. It most commonly refers to having printed output match that which was designed on the computer screen. It can also refer to font management utilities that show the contents of the Font menu in the actual typefaces. Illustrator does not support such font utilities.

  • x-HeightThe distance from the bottom of a font's lowercase x to the letter's top is referred to as the font's x-height (refer to Figure 7.35). For many fonts, this is the height of all lowercase letters without ascenders or descenders. However, some fonts have variations in height among lowercase letters. The x-height can vary tremendously among fonts of the same point size. (See also ascender and descender.)


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