Typography rules and terms every designer must know

We explain the fundamental concepts and terminology of typography in words you can understand.

Ear

A small stroke extending from the upper-right side of the bowl of lowercase g, as shown in the example. It can also appear in a lowercase r.

Ethel

A ligature of the letters 'o' and 'e'.

Em dash

There are many different types of 'dashes'

Often referred to as 'Mutton' to distinguish it from the very similar-sounding En, Em is a horizontal space equal to the current point size of text.

En dash

'Nut' to its friends, the En is a horizontal measure one half the size of an Em. That being the case, 'lamb' might have been more appropriate.

Eye

The eye is similar to a counter, but instead refers specifically to the enclosed part of the letter 'e'.

Finial

A tapered or curved end, which appears on letters such as e and c.

Fleuron

A subcategory of, or the precursor to, the dingbat. Fleurons are floral marks dreamed up by printers of the past to help decorate text.

<font-face>

The HTML5 tag that brings typography to the internet with typefaces directly embedded in web pages.

Glyph

What is typography

Glyphs are the singular parts that make up a font

Any singular mark that makes part of a font, whether a letter, number, punctuation mark or even a dingbat. Glyphs are the building blocks of typography.

Grapheme

Very similar to glyph, but possibly a bit broader. A grapheme is a fundamental unit of language, such as a Chinese pictogram, an exclamation mark or a letterform. Still with us in our guide to what is typography? Great! Because we've got more terms coming your way!

Gutter

The spaces between facing pages of, and very often columns of text.

Justified

In a paragraph of justified text, when the contents are arranged so that there is no white space at the end of a line: each begins flush left and finishes flush right.

Kerning

Designers adjust – or 'kern' – letterforms to improve their readability

The art of adjusting the proximity of adjacent letters to optimise their visual appeal and readability.

Leading

What is typography

Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type

Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type. In olden times actual strips of lead were used to separate lines of text vertically; the naming convention persists.

Legibility

The ease with which one letterform can be distinguished from the next. It feeds into but is not the same as readability.

Loop

What is typography

The lower part of the letters 'g' and 'y' are known as the loop or lobe

The lower part of the letter 'g' is known as its loop or lobe. Sometimes called the tail – a term that also takes in the lower portion of letter 'y'.

Logotype

The lettered part of any marque or identity. The logotype can be taken separately from its graphic companion.

Ligature

The conjoined but non-identical twins of the typographic universe. Ligatures pull two forms together to produce a new glyph.

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