WD97: Definitions of Typography Terms in Word

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The following is a glossary of some common typographic terms you may encounter when working with fonts in Word:
   Term               Definition

   Ascender           The part of certain lowercase letters that extends
                      above the x-height of a font.

   Ascender Line      A line marking the topmost point of the cap line.

   Baseline           The line along which the bases of all capital letters
                      (and most lowercase letters) are positioned.

   Cap Height         The height of the uppercase letters within a font.

   Cap Line           A line marking the height of uppercase letters within
                      a font.

   Descender          The portion of a lowercase letter that extends below
                      the base line of the letter.

   Descender Line     A line marking the lowest point of the descenders
                      within a font.

   Em                 A unit of measurement equal to the current type size.
                      For example, an em in 12-point type is equal to 12

   En                 A unit of measurement equal to half of one em.

   Font               The complete set of characters for one typeface at
                      one particular type size, excluding attributes such
                      as bold or italic.

   Font Family        Group of typefaces with similar characteristics. For
                      example, the sans serif typefaces Arial, Arial Bold,
                      Arial Bold Italic, Arial Italic, Small Fonts, and MS
                      Sans Serif are all part of the Swiss font family.

   Font Size          The size of type, measured in points between the
                      bottom of the descender and the top of the ascender
                      (the vertical point size of a font). Sometimes
                      referred to as the Type or Point Size.

   Font Style         Refers to the specific characteristics of the font.
                      The four characteristics that can be defined for
                      fonts are italic, bold, bold italic, and roman.

   Kerning            The adjustment of spacing between letters. Also
                      called Letter Spacing.

   Leading            (pronounced "ledding") The amount of vertical space
                      between lines of type.

   Letter Spacing     Extra space inserted between letters in a word. Also
                      called Kerning.

   Ligature           A special double character in a font representing two
                      letters as one. For example, ae and oe.

   Line Spacing       The amount of vertical spacing, expressed in points,
                      from the baseline of one line of text, to the
                      baseline of the next line.

   Mean Line          The line on which the top parts of most of the
                      lowercase letters set (not the ascenders). Also
                      called x-height.

   Pica               A unit of measurement equal to one-sixth of an inch.
                      There are 12 points to a pica.

   Point              A unit of measurement, often used to measure type
                      size, equal to 0.013837 inch (approximately equal to

   Sans Serif         A font that does not have serifs. For example,
                      Helvetica or Modern.

   Serif              A small cross stroke accentuating the end of the main
                      stroke of a letter in some typefaces.

   Serif Type         A font that has accents at the end of character
                      strokes. For example, Times or Roman.

   Slant              Refers to the angle of a font's characters, which can
                      be italic or roman (no slant).

   Spacing            Can be either fixed or proportional. In a fixed font,
                      such as Courier, every character occupies the same
                      amount of space. In a proportional font, such as
                      Arial or Times New Roman(R), character width varies.

   Pitch              Refers to the amount of horizontal space used for
                      each character of fixed-width fonts. This is often
                      specified in characters-per-inch (CPI), typically
                      where 10-pitch equals 12-point, 12-pitch equals
                      10-point, and 15-pitch equals 8-point.

   Typeface           A set of characters that share common characteristics
                      such as stroke width and the presence or absence of

   Weight             Refers to the heaviness of the stroke for a specific
                      font, such as Light, Regular, Book, Demi, Heavy,
                      Black, and Extra Bold.

   Width              Refers to whether the standard typeface has been
                      extended or compressed horizontally. The common
                      variations are Condensed, Normal, or Extended.

   X-Height           The height of those lowercase letters such as "x",
                      which do not have ascenders or descenders.

   X Line             A line marking the top of those lowercase letters,
                      such as "x", having no ascenders. The upper boundary
                      of x-height.

More information

The following diagram illustrates the positions of some of the above terms:
                   XXXX       X -- Ascender                         |
                  X    X      X                                     |
    mean line_____XXXXXX______XXXX_______X___X__ _                  |
                  X    X      X   X      X   X    | x-height        | Font
    base line_____X____X______X___X_______XXXX__ _| (mean to base)  | Size
                                             X                      |
                                         XXXX  -- Descender       __|
For printing and display in a computer system, each font has its own character set according to the ASCII, ANSI, or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standard or other industry standard that defines what character is represented by a specific keystroke. Windows uses the ANSI character set. Many non-Windows based applications use the ASCII character set or the OEM character set.

For more information about typography, please see the following Microsoft World Wide Web site:


Article ID: 192971 - Last Review: October 26, 2013 - Revision: 3.0
Applies to
  • Microsoft Word 97 Standard Edition
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