As we continue in our Typography series, it is very important that we learn some basic terms for each part of the font in use – its anatomy. There is a standard set of terms to describe the parts of a character. These terms, and the parts of the letter they represent, are often referred to as “letter anatomy” or “typeface anatomy”. By breaking down letters into parts, a designer can better understand how type is created and altered and how to use it effectively.



Aperture – Opening at the end of an open counter.




Arm – A horizontal stroke not connected on one or both ends.


Typeface anatomy or letter anatomy refers to the individual segments and features of a particular character. Certain pieces are common to most characters and some are unique to only one or two characters in a typeface.



Ascender – An upward vertical stroke found on lowercase letters that extends above the typeface’s x-height.



Baseline – The invisible line where letters sit.




Bowl – A curved stroke that encloses a letter’s counter.


Learning about serifs, strokes, counters, and other bits and pieces that make up the letters in a typeface is not something of interest only to font fanatics and type designers. The shape and size of certain elements are generally consistent throughout any given typeface and can help you identify and categorize typefaces.



Counter – Fully or partially enclosed space within a letter.




Crossbar – A horizontal stroke.




Descender – A downward vertical stroke found on lowercase letters that extends below the baseline.


It’s not absolutely necessary for most font users to know the precise difference between a spur and a beak or a tail and a leg, but it is fun and can make you feel and sound smart. Instead of resorting to terms such as “that little round thingamagig at the top of the f” or “the curvy connector bit in the middle of the funny-looking g” you can use real terms like ball terminal or the link in a double-storey g.

Diagonal Stroke


Diagonal stroke – An angled stroke.


Here are some of the proper terms for the anatomy of a typeface.  Are you familiar with some of them?

In my next post we will see more terms and important facts to know about typefaces.  Keep posted!


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