How tall are the basic lower case letters

As I just discussed, one reason type can look small is that it is compressed. Another reason is that the basic lower case letters may be short. For the sake of explanation, let's say that basic lower case letters include:

• letters not having ascenders or descenders, like a, c, o, and x, to name a few

• the parts of letters—like b, d, p—not including the ascenders and descenders (just the bowls of the b, the d, and the p, for example)

Within a particular typeface, all basic lower case letters are about the same height. But the basic lower case letters in one typeface may be much taller or shorter than those in another typeface.

For example, believe it or not, both of these next examples are the same overall point size—as the lines across the top and bottom show:

Remember that type size is the height of an entire typeface, essentially from the top of the highest character to the bottom of the lowest one.

Some typefaces, like Cochin, have really long ascenders and descenders:

little room for basic lower case letters little room for basic lower case letters

As a result, there's not much height left for the basic lower case letters—and they get squeezed into a small vertical space. They look smaller and are harder to read in small point sizes.

On the other hand, some typefaces, like Avant Garde, have really short ascenders and descenders:

As a result, there's plenty of height left for the basic lower case letters—and the typeface is more readable at smaller sizes.

So now let's put this discussion of typefaces all together with some recommendations (there are samples of all these typefaces at the end of the chapter):

• Times New Roman. This serif typeface looks small on the page in 12-point type because the typeface is compressed. I prefer 13-point type but 12V2 may suffice.

• New Baskerville, New Century Schoolbook, and Palatino. These serif typefaces look all right in 12-point type; however, I lean toward i2*/4 for New Baskerville and Palatino. They're a little more compressed than New Century Schoolbook.

• Arial and Helvetica. These sans serif typefaces make excellent headings. They both are not very compressed and have large lower case letters. As a result, they can be in bold type without the letters filling in. (You've probably seen letters like o and d and p in boldface with type filling into the middle.)

short ascender short descender plenty of room for basic lower case letters plenty of room for basic lower case letters short descender

• Avant Garde. This is big-—really big—for its point size. It's a very expanded sans serif typeface and has large lower case letters. As a result, Avant Garde works well in bold type, remaining readable in small sizes.

Be careful with full justification

Much of the time full justification is appropriate but not always. Here's the explanation.

There are three types of justification:

• Full justification. Both left and right margins are even.

• Left justification. Only the left margin is even; the right is ragged.

• Right justification. Only the right margin is even; the left is ragged.

Here is a sample of each:

Fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified. This paragraph is fully justified.

Left justified. This paragraph is left justified. This paragraph is left justified. This paragraph is left justified. This paragraph is left justified. This paragraph is left justified. This paragraph is left justified.

Right justified. This paragraph is right justified. This paragraph is right justified. This paragraph is right justified. This paragraph is right justified. This paragraph is right justified. This paragraph is right justified.

With most typefaces, either full justification or left justification is fine. Right justification is for special effects. The title on a cover page, for example, sometimes looks nice with right justification.

You want to avoid full justification with primarily one typeface: Courier. With Courier (and some of its relatives), full justification tends to leave uneven gaps between some of the words. I'm sure you've seen the problem. The uneven spacing makes the text harder to read.

The problem is that Courier is a monospaced typeface. Courier was an extremely popular choice of typewriter ball for the old IBM Selectric typewriter. Like most typewriter typefaces, each letter and number took up the same width on the page (hence, monospaced):

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