A beautifully illustrated glossary of typographic terms you should know

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Sorting out all those terms can be confusing in itself, so we’ve compiled a visual glossary that will guide you through the lingo — whether you’re an aspiring typeface designer or just a general typography enthusiast. Learning the building blocks of typography will help you better understand how to pick a suitable font and apply it effectively within your design projects.


The Basics: Typefaces Categories & Styles

01. Font/Typeface:


Back in the days of metal type and printing presses, fonts and typefaces were two different things — the typeface was the specific design of the letters, say Times New Roman or Baskerville; while the font referred to the particular size or style of that typeface, say 10 point regular or 24 point italic (each created as its own collection of cast metal letters and other characters). Today, however, many designers use the terms more or less interchangeably. The best and most straightforward modern definition I’ve run across (courtesy of Fontshop) goes as follows:

“A collection of letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols used to set text (or related) matter. Although font and typeface are often used interchangeably, font refers to the physical embodiment (whether it’s a case of metal pieces or a computer file) while typeface refers to the design (the way it looks). A font is what you use, and a typeface is what you see.”

02. Character:


An individual symbol of the full character set that makes up a typeface; may take the form of a letter, number, punctuation mark, etc.

03. Alternate Character / Glyph:


A non-standard (sometimes decorative) variation of a character that comes as an extra option with a font file.

04. Serif:


A short line or stroke attached to or extending from the open ends of a letterform; also refers to the general category of typefaces that have been designed with this feature.

05. Sans-Serif / Sans:


Literally “without line”; the general category of typefaces (or an individual typeface) designed without serifs.

06. Italic:


A slanted version of a typeface (slants from left to right); a true italic is uniquely designed, more than a tilted version of the upright (a.k.a. “roman”) typeface.

The Foundation: Positioning & Spacing

07. Baseline:


The imaginary line on which most letters and other characters sit.

08. Cap Line:


The imaginary line that marks the upper boundary of capital letters and some lowercase letters’ ascenders (see Ascender definition in the next section).

09. X-Height:


The height of a typeface’s lowercase letters (disregarding ascenders and descenders).

10. Tracking / Letter-Spacing:


The uniform amount of spacing between characters in a complete section of text (sentence, line, paragraph, page, etc.).

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By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

Data is just a Google-search away – from sources around the world. Content is available in all formats and platforms. In the midst of so much content and data, it takes insight and discernment to provide accurate, clear and relevant information that informs and equips.

Here are a few principles for communicating data:

  • Does the data make sense? All those estimation problems that math teachers force on their students are actually useful, because they help in discerning if a number makes sense. When a number is stated precisely, such as “886,400 people live in the city,” then one might assume that accuracy is guaranteed. However, if the city in question is Mexico City, then it is possible that a digit was lost and the actual number is closer to 8,864,000. As an editor, I may not know the actual population of Mexico City, but I know it is one of world’s largest cities, so the figure of less than a million people doesn’t make sense. If a number doesn’t make sense, I can search different sources to verify the number.
  • Is the data accurately labeled? Population information is available for cities and for metropolitan areas. There is a difference. The population within the city limits may be vastly different from the population in an area that includes suburbs which surround the city. For example, an estimated 21.2 million people live in the metropolitan area which includes Mexico City.
  • Is the data comparable? If I am comparing cities in the Americas, I may want to discuss New York City and Mexico City. If I am sloppy with the data, I could say that New York has 19.6 million people while Mexico City has 8.9 million, leading the reader to believe that New York City is larger than Mexico City. The data cited are not comparable – the New York metropolitan area has 19.6 million people, but New York City has 8.3 million people. On both scales, New York City is smaller than Mexico City.

These are just a few checks to use when presenting data. Accuracy matters!

image budget
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An Image Budget is used to keep track of images ordered, listing the article for which the image was ordered, who did the work, what price was originally agreed upon, and the amount actually billed. This form is a great way for the magazine’s art director to keep track of requested art and stay organized for each issue.

Download the free sample here

For tips on “1o Things to Consider when Pricing Illustrations” read this article in PRINT.


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This is your chance to learn with other publishing professionals on 30 Sept. – 6 Oct. 

Don’t just stand by and watch while some 65 Christian publishing professionals from 15 countries gather in Nairobi, Kenya, next week. Find your place at our first conference in Africa. Listen to some of the world’s most respected journalists, and network with Christians in publishing from around the world. Don’t be left out of this opportunity.
Who’s coming? Publishing professionals from these countries:
Australia Brazil
Burkina Faso
Democratic Republic of Congo
 Ghana  India
 Kenya  Nigeria
 Pakistan  Romania
 Rwanda Uganda
United States


Don’t miss out. Register today.

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Ever have trouble communicating with others regarding typography? Use these key terms to pave the way to better understanding.

  • ascender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends above the x-height.
  • baseline – The invisible line on which the letters rest.
  • boldface – A heavier version of the normal weight of a typeface.
  • centered – A typographic arrangement in which type appears in the center of a defined space.
  • characters – Individual letters or numbers.
  • condensed – A narrower version of the normal width of a typeface.
  • descender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends below the x-height.
  • drop cap – An enlarged initial letter that extends below the first base line of body text. A drop cap should be base aligned with one of the text’s base lines.
  • font – One design of a particular typeface. It includes all of the designed characters such as numerals and punctuation.
  • initial cap – A larger letter at the beginning of a block of text. An initial cap may be a drop cap, or it may sit on the first line of text.
  • italic – Type in which the letters are slanted to the right and drawn to suggest handwriting.
  • justified type – Lines of type that are flush on both the left and right edges.
  • kern – To tighten the space between letterforms to achieve optically-consistent letter spacing.
  • letter spacing – Insertion of space between the letters of a word to improve the appearance of a line of type.
  • line spacing/leading – In text, the space between the baseline of one line and the baseline of the next.
  • loose lines – Lines of text with too much space between letters and words.
  • point size – The size of type measured from the top of the ascenders to the bottom of the descenders.
  • ragged – Multiple lines of type set with either the left or right edge uneven.
  • roman – Name often applied to the Latin alphabet as it is used in English and most other European languages.  Also used to identify vertical type as distinct from italic.
  • sans serif: Type without serifs. (The display text in this manual is sans serif.)
  • serifs – Small strokes at the ends of the main strokes of letters. (The body text in this manual has serifs.)
  • soft return – A carriage return that breaks to a new line but doesn’t start a new paragraph. In most programs, you can type a soft return by pressing the shift-return keys.
  • text type – Type, usually between 6 and 14 points, used for text compositions.
  • typeface – A named type design, such as Garamond, Helvetica, or Times Roman.
  • type family – All the variations of a particular typeface. Type families usually consist of the basic roman, italic, and bold. Larger type families may include condensed, expanded, outlined, as well as a variety of different weights.
  • typography – The style and arrangement of the headline and subhead letters on a page.
  • x-height – The height of lower-case letters without ascenders and descenders. It is defined by the base line and the mean line.

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Magazine design is much more than simply arranging type and art on a spread. Your magazine’s job is to talk to your readers in a way they can understand. Your words do that, but the magazine’s design also talks to your readers. What is your magazine telling your readers?

Your readers may not know what magazine architecture is, but they will recognize a poorly thought out design system. Is your magazine’s architecture sloppy or have you developed templates for departments, created a carefully thought-out design system, and identified usage standards? Does your magazine have a visual identity or is it a hodge podge of pictures and text? Do your readers recognize your brand and identify with it?

Your magazine’s design is just as important as its editorial content. Even if you hire someone to handle your magazine’s design you need to know how to communicate with the designer.

As an editor you may be drawn to the editing course. But, please consider whether your magazine really needs a well-informed editor who can help form the magazine’s visual identity. You do not need to be an artist to attend this course. If you know your magazine and your reader, then you are a critical part of the design team. Ideally you should attend this course with your designer. But if your designer isn’t able to attend, you will still benefit from a course, which teaches you how to identify the characteristics of a well-designed magazine and gives you the tools to talk to your designer.

Learn more about the Magazine Publishing Institute

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An article status chart is one system to help keep track of the progress of work on upcoming issues. This sample chart (for a bimonthly magazine) shows the status of assigned articles. You may also choose to use project management software or cloud-based solutions.


*You can download this chart and many more free samples here.

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We are glad to let you know about a Spanish-language online course on creating comics from a Christian perspective.

A una semana del inicio de nuestro curso libre:

“Creación de Cómics con perspectivas cristianas”, con el diseñador gráfico Jose Carlos Gutiérrez.
Este curso lo ofrecemos LetraViva Red, Media Associates International (MAI) y COMIX35/Christian Comics International.
– No es necesario saber dibujar bien para conocer más y aprender a desarrollar este arte
– Editores y escritores: una oportunidad para familiarizarse con esta forma de comunicarse
– Un medio muy difundido entre los jóvenes de la cual podemos aprender mucho, y con la cual podremos comunicarnos mejor. Dirigido a personas de cualquier edad.

You can find more information in:



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Why do I need guidelines?

Most magazines will provide a set of “Writer’s Guidelines” to potential and interested writers who want to contribute to the publication. A good place to start, even before a query letter, is to obtain that magazine’s “Writer’s Guidelines.” This way you can make sure the article you want to write is in keeping with their publication’s audience, tone, etc. Reading the guidelines is a great way to not waste your time or the magazine’s by knowing ahead of time what they may want.

But what is it?

What are “Writer’s Guidelines” exactly? It is a one- or two-page description of the kind of articles the magazine publishes. Magazines should post writers guidelines on their website or send them to prospective writers, so you won’t need to keep explaining over and over what your magazine is looking for—, not looking for, —and the procedures for submitting articles.

Take a look at some free samples so you know what you are looking for as a writer or so you know what to provide to potential writers.

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By Matthew Stibbe

Thought leadership articles are one of the hardest forms of content marketing to get right. You need in-depth research, remarkable writing and impeccable style.


Thought leadership articles have to be based on solid industry knowledge, a good grasp of current trends and events and deep insight into a marketing persona’s potential problem or challenge. They need to be backed up by solid, objective data. They need skilful writing in order to weave in your company’s position and expertise without compromising credibility.

Here are a few research tips that will help you anchor your copy:

  • Start at the source. Scour your company intranet for documents, brochures or videos that could help. Devour and break down whatever you can find.
  • Ask an expert. Whether it’s a product expert from inside your company, a third party specialist or a happy customer, there is always someone out there who knows more than you. Interviews should be guided and informative conversations. Your role is to listen.
  • The site you can never cite. Wikipedia is fantastic for getting an overview of a person, a term or anything else. Of course you should never rely on it absolutely as a source, but start there.
  • Google News and Blog searches. Looking at what comes up in the headlines, and where in the world that topic is buzzing is a brilliant way to tap in to the heart of the current conversation. Start with Google News, then drill down into industry or interest-specific publications

Using your sources

Sourcing means getting information, writing with it and keeping track of where it came from. Attribution, at least in this context, is how you report where it came from in your writing. Sourcing is always a good thing. Attribution is more subtle.

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