When we say a type size is 12 points, we essentially mean that the vertical distance from the top of the tallest character to the bottom of the lowest is 12 points.
But some typefaces have letters that are wide—which point size doesn't measure. As a result, these typefaces look big for their point size. Other typefaces are narrow—and look small for their point size.
You can see that effect when you look at the alphabet in two different typefaces. Notice that the sample of Times New Roman takes less space across the page than New Baskerville does:
Times New Roman: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz New Baskerville: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Both samples are in 12-point type, but Times New Roman is more narrow—or compressed—than is New Baskerville. The difference may seem slight, but if you print an entire page of each typeface, you'll instantly see the differences:
• The compressed typeface—Times New Roman—seems smaller.
• The compressed typeface also seems to make the page darker and sometimes more cluttered.
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