Terminology Of A Letterform

Published Friday, March 19th, 2010 by Mike Erickson in Typography

Early in my career as a designer I found myself using incorrect terminology when explaining about a typeface to my clients. I would say things like “that vertical stroke on the A”, or “the inside negative space of the O.” I thought to myself, maybe my clients know what that is called and I’m looking

pretty inexperienced here. It was not until I studied typography and started designing typeface professionally I realized that being a designer I should probably use the correct terminology when explaining my work. So I have put together a quick reference of the correct terminology used with letterforms and typeface. I hope this helps clients and designers alike.

serif and sans serif type

slab serif and cupped serif

hairline and bracketed serif

apex and vertex

ascender and descender

counter and lobe or bowl

stem and arms

crossbar and tail

tail or swash

ball terminal or kern

Oh and Please use the word typography when explaining about type, not “typo” because in my book typo means a typographical error. πŸ˜‰

  1. Blue Cuevas says:

    This is a very good and brief read. Very enlightening to new designers. Thanks for sharing this info, Mike. Kudos!

  2. Blue Cuevas, thanks for your comment. I hope to provide more enlightening posts.

  3. Anthony Lane says:

    Nice typo post Mike. I mean Typography. πŸ˜‰

  4. shylesh says:

    thanks for this post … very useful one

  5. Hi Anthony, Thanks for checking it out.
    Shylesh, thanks I hope it helps someone somewhere.

  6. ΓΆzel ders says:

    thas is interesting. From now on writing is a little bit hard. carefull while writing. I wonder the other words

  7. cna training says:

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  8. CNA Training , Thanks! yeah getting back to basics.


  9. Gerard Syms says:

    Ahh! Finally, an enlightening post on whatchamacalit! (Just kidding!!!) Seriously though, I’ve admired your work – on Logopond – the way your ideas manifest and the way they communicate the ideas…. You are talented, sir! Thanks again for the post!

  10. Thanks a lot Gerard and School grants.

  11. TomPier says:

    great post as usual!

  12. Thanks Tom, I hope I can think of some more to post. πŸ™‚

  13. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  14. Nice post Mike, very useful. πŸ™‚

  15. Rajat Jaswal says:

    Thank you so much for this post Mike. Lately, I’ve been looking for articles which explain the technicalities of designing. I usually visit this site for inspiration but was pleasantly surprised by the updates that you’ve made. Looking forward to more posts like this one.

  16. Melissa says:

    Hey! I simply wanted to say your website is one of the nicely laid out, most inspirational I have come across in quite a while. Thx! πŸ™‚

  17. Muhammad Ali Effendy says:

    Very informative post, Mike πŸ™‚

  18. Thanks guys, I hope to have more soon.

  19. Joe Prince says:

    Great informative post Mike! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  20. OMG I am so happy I ran across this sight. It enlightens me on so much about letter form/typography which helps me out a ton for my college course! Thanks for taking out the time to share!

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