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Book design: Editor's Notes #169
July 31, 2014

Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things.
--Booker T. Washington

In this issue:

1. Font matters
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site

For those who have been waiting for Facebook author #3's story, do not despair. A combination of circumstances has forced me to postpone that issue, but it is coming. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy learning a little about fonts.

1. Font matters

Desktop publishing has made us all designers to some extent. Those of us who self-publish do well to know at least a little about design whether we hire a designer or not.

Here is a quick introduction to some of the things a designer knows and considers when choosing a font for a book.

First, some terms:
  • x-height: the height of a lower case x.
  • cap height: the height of upper case letters
  • ascender: the part of a lower case letter above the x-height (b, d, h, etc.)
  • descender: the part of a lower case letter below the x-height (g, j, p, etc.)
  • bowl: the empty space inside some letters (a, b, d, etc.)
  • serif: short cross-strokes at the top and bottom of a letter. (Fonts without these strokes are called sans-serif.)

Now let's use these terms to help you choose a font for your book, your business cards, or the body of your letters. Good font choice sends a message about you or your content.

If you want to convey conventionality, use a serif font with a small x-height and long ascenders and descenders.

If you want to give an air of being contemporary, use a sans-serif font with high x-height and short ascenders and descenders.

For dignity, choose a serif font with slightly pinched bowls.

If you want to send a message of friendliness, choose a font with rounded bowls and rounded serifs.

Now, open your list of fonts, and choose wisely.

(Note that the rules change somewhat for display text like headlines, letterhead, or posters.)

2.Tickled my funnybone
What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.


3. Interesting Web site
Here is a good jumping-off place to move further into the understanding of fonts.

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