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Sans-serif font

Also known as “grotesque”. A basic, clean form of a letter without serifs, which isn’t used in long texts as it slows down the reader. This text uses the sans-serif font.

Agata Polasik


Also known as slab serif. Characterized by clean forms based on geometric shapes (rectangle, square, triangle, circle, oval) and on vertical or almost vertical axis of round letters, as well as by the presence of sharp, rectangular serifs and heavy-weight signs.



Sometimes two letters are too tightly put together or too far apart. This is when kerning comes in handy. Thanks to it we can place letters in a perfect distance, so that they don’t stand out in text. For example letters “A” and “V”. Usually the space between them is too big. This is why a designer has to change that space and create a kerning pair.


Calligraphic writing

A very minute and elegant writing. The art of calligraphy requires patience and practice. The shape of letters created by a calligrapher depends on the choice of tool. Sometimes it is hard to read the content but who cares when the letters are so pretty!


Serif font

A typeface in which letters end with a serif – that is horizontal or diagonal lines that facilitate reading. Serifs lead our eyes through text even when the letters are very small.



A smooth writing. Italic isn't just a slanted letter. It's a special style of a font inspired by handwriting. That is why it has such an individual character. It's an odd sibling of the basic style. It looks a bit like it, but it stands out more.


Em dash & en dash

The long line is called an em dash and the half shorter one is an en dash. En dash is usually used to mark a period of time between specific dates or hours. Em dash is used in dialogues. The shortest line is called a hyphen (you can find it on your keyboard). It separates or joins words.



A very elegant and harmonious letter resembling the renaissance style in its shape. It has a very light and sophisticated form. That is why it makes it easier for the reader to focus on... reading. No wonder it often can be found in voluminous novels.



Remember kerning which regulated the spaces between the letters? Sometimes limiting the space between them isn't possible as some of the elements may overlap. For instance, when we put 'f' next to 'i' the protrusion from 'f' meets the dot from 'i'. To overcome this problem typographers came up with ligature – a separate sign joining two or more letters in one neat figure such as 'fi'.



A flourish which highlights certain letters. It might be an extended serif, ascender or descender line. It stems from calligraphy which uses twirls to decorate letters. Swashes often appear in serif fonts and scripts inspired by handwritting.


Quotation marks

Punctuation marks used to separate citations or names and titles. In Polish language quotation marks open at the bottom and end on the top. It is a double apostrophe quotation. In English quotation marks open and close at the top.



A drawn word or senstence. The designer has complete freedom of creation – he can can either imitate brush strokes or draw geometric shapes.


Orphan (Bękart)

A short line of text which appears at the beginning of a column although it should not. When a paragraph ends with it you know you're in trouble. Orphan is a typesetting mistake that shouldn't be found in any book.



* and #

Asterisk (or a star) on the ascender line is commonly used to call out a footnote or to mark paragraphs and phrases. A sequence of stars might signify encrypted or unknown letters. Hash (cross, sharp or mesh) is used in the language of computer programming, but it can also stand for a number. In social media it precedes a keyword or a link – a hashtag.


Capitals and small capitals

Capital is also known as ‘a capital letter’ or ‘a majuscule’. You can find it at the beginning of a sentence or in proper names. If a designer wanted to emphasise significance of a word, they could use ALLCAPS, but then the word would stand out too much from the rest of the text. This is when small caps come to the rescue – they’re shaped as capital letters, but their size is similar to that of lowercase.


Bold and light

Tubby bold and its diet counterpart – light are different styles of the same typeface. One letter of a given typeface can take different forms. Bold, for instance, is most commonly employed to emphasise a certain word. Light on the other hand adds lightness to the text. Despite the differences in width and weight, the letters don’t lose traits which are characteristic of the typeface.



These are the lines, ogonek, dots and all of the graphic signs which, when added to existing letters, create new ones. They can be found under, above, next to or inside of a letter. Polish language contains nine diacriticised characters – letters which were created by addition of diacritics. Here is a sentence containing them all: ”Zażółć gęślą jaźń”.


Majuscule and minuscule

Also known as ‘a capital letter’ and ‘a small letter’. The bigger one is a majuscule and is placed at the beginning of a sentence and in proper names. Minuscule is sometimes called ‘lower case’ and it’s used in typesetting. Apart from the obvious difference in size, they also come in different shapes.


Dash and em

Em is a unit in typography which allows typographers to organise their projects. It’s a relative unit, which means that it changes accordingly to the type size. The intention is to influence the length of many parameters of the typeface such as dash, which should be of the same length as em. Dash is a horizontal line which you can often find in dialogues of a text.


Body font and display font

Body font is used in setting of long pieces of text – that’s why it has to be simple, legible and devoid of ornaments, which might hamper the reading. There are no such boundaries when it comes to display font, most commonly used in large size. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that legible so you can give rein to your imagination!


Typeface and font

Can be confusing, can’t it? A font is a wooden or metal sort with a letter’s ‘face’ which leaves imprints on paper. A typeface is a digital font. The origins of the former date back to Gutenberg’s times, while the latter is a modern invention. Both are just media of a given set of glyphs sharing the same traits which is called the typeface.


& and @

‘&’ is a graphic symbol of ‘et’ which in Latin means simply ‘and’. It is used in English and German. Thanks to its ornamental form it became a part of Polish written language.‘@’, which stands for ‘at’, is also of Latinate origin. It used to be written next to the surname of an addressee on a parcel post. Nowadays it can mainly be found in e-mail addresses.


Superscript and subscript

Superscript is a modification of letters or numbers which is done by minimising and raising the sign to the level of ascender line. Subscript is a minimised sign which is placed below the descender line. You can find it in Maths or Chemistry coursebooks. Superscript is also useful for marking annotations in a text.


Linear and contrasted letters

Linear letters are the ones which consist of lines of the same weight. There is no so-called contrast which is characteristic of contrasted letters. The difference in weight stems from handwriting, where – depending on the tool used and its angle, the letters can have either thinner or thicker spots.


Type families

Type family is composed of different variations of a typeface. All types within the family share certain characteristic features, yet can vary in terms of weight, width and typeface angle. Slanted and flowing writing is called Italic type, narrow and squeezed is known as ‘condensed’ while full-faced writing is called ‘bold’. Thanks to the variety of styles we can highlight parts of text by managing its image and character.


Orphan (Bękart)

A short line of text which appears at the beginning of a column although it should not. When a paragraph ends with it you know you're in trouble. Orphan is a typesetting mistake that shouldn't be found in any book.