Typography Terminology: Apex to Swash and the Gadzook In Between

anatomy of typography
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Typography is fascinating to me. The talent of designers to develop fonts that are both unique and even able to express an emotion is nothing short of incredible. But what makes up a letter? Diane Kelly Nuguid put together the first infographic to provide insight into different parts of a letter in typography. Click on it to see a full view.

Typography Terminology Glossary

  1. Aperture – The opening or partially enclosed negative space created by an open counter.
  2. Apex – The uppermost connecting point of a letterform where two strokes meet; may be rounded, sharp/pointed, flat/blunt, etc.
  3. Arc of Stem – A curved stroke that is continuous with a stem.
  4. Ascender – A portion of the font that ascends beyond the height of a character.
  5. Arm – A horizontal stroke that does not connect to a stem on one or both ends.
  6. Bar – The horizontal stroke in characters A, H, R, e, and f.
  7. Baseline – The horizontal alignment of the base of the letters.
  8. Bowl – A curved stroke which creates a counter.
  9. Counter – The partially or fully enclosed space within a character.
  10. Cross Stroke – A line that extends across/through the stem of a letter.
  11. Descender – The part of a character that sometimes descends below the baseline, typically in a g, j, p, q, y and sometimes j.
  12. Ear – The small stroke that projects from the top of a lowercase g.
  13. Foot – The part of the stem that rests on the baseline.
  14. Gadzook – The embellishment that connects the two letters in a Ligature.
  15. Joint – The point where a stroke connects to a stem.
  16. Kerning – The distance between letters in a word.
  17. Leading – The distance between the baseline of one line of text to the next.
  18. Leg – A short, descending stroke on a letterform.
  19. Ligature – Two or more letters that are connected to form one character; primarily decorative.
  20. Line length – How many characters fit in a line before you return to the beginning.
  21. Loop – The lower portion of the lowercase g.
  22. Serif – The projections extending off the main strokes of a character. Sans serif literally means ‘without’ Serif. Serif-based fonts have been known to help people read faster since the shape of the word is better defined.
  23. Shoulder – The curved stroke of the h, m and n.
  24. Swash – A decorative extension or stroke on a letterform.
  25. Stem – The main straight, vertical stroke in a letter (or diagonal when there are no verticals).
  26. Stroke – A straight or curved line that makes up the bars, arms, stems and bowls.
  27. Terminal – The end of any stroke that doesn’t include a serif; includes ball terminals (circular in shape) and finials (curved or tapered in shape).
  28. Vertex – The point at the bottom of a character where two strokes meet.
  29. x-height – The height of a typical character (excluding any ascender or descenders)

Janie Kliever provided the second infographic for Canva with some additional detail. Click on it to visit their article for an in-depth view of each.

typography terminology

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