I Love Typography

On diacritics

The globalisation of the type market and rising interest in multi-lingual typeface design is a source of great optimism among many typographers. Yet despite the proliferation of these beautiful new typefaces, many still do not support some European languages, let alone cater for African and Asian languages. In fact, contrary to the claims of advertisements, the offering is, in respect to language support, quite limited.

The aim of this article is to explain the fundamentals behind the use and design of Latin diacritical marks (accents) and help typographers make informed choices regarding their use. Design considerations are illustrated mostly with Central-European diacritics for the following reasons: a) they are generally less familiar to Western typographers. To quote Czech type designer Tomáš Brousil: “For Western typographers our accents are as strange as, for example, the Arabic script.” That they are seen as merely an add-on to the familiar Latin alphabet often leads to severely underestimating their importance; b) they are fairly familiar to the author; c) Central European, and the Czech language in particular, made one of the earliest uses of diacritics with Latin script (the substitution of diacritics for the use of digraphs was proposed by Jan Hus in his De Ortographia Bohemica in 1412).

arabic vocalization


For some time, floating or connected marks assigned to characters have been used in numerous writing systems, and have various purposes. Greek uses them to express tonality (so-called polytonic Greek), Arabic and Hebrew use them, optionally, to annotate vowels. In some of the Indian syllabic writing systems the marks represent alteration of the syllable sound (e.g. modifying the inherent vowel component).

In Latin, diacritics are usually a tool to extend the basic alphabet for use with a particular language. That is to add new compound characters (graphemes) to represent sounds (phonemes) common in that particular language, but not representable by the basic alphabet. Crudely put, the accents are used when the basic alphabet runs out of free slots, or when a systematic approach to marking is the aim (e.g. specific marks are used consistently to express softness, length, accent, &c.).

Selected latin accents. Click to view as PDF

Diacritics are clearly not the only way to extend the writing system. New characters can be added (e.g. German ß) or clusters of letters (digraphs, trigraphs) can be used to represent specific sounds (as in Welsh, for example).

Nowadays, most of European languages make use of diacritics (for a nice overview see FontShop’s “Beyond ASCII” poster). Latin script was also extended for writing many African languages and Vietnamese. Various accents are used for transliteration of non-Latin scripts-languages to Latin (e.g. the pinyin system for Chinese). The International phonetic alphabet (IPA) is yet another extension of Latin.

Use of diacritics

It is often (but not always) the case that accented letters are equal citizens of vernacular alphabets. In Danish, for example, the alphabet goes “a–z, æ, ø, å”. The accented characters are compound, comprising character plus accent. Diacritical marks are therefore inherent parts of characters as much as stems or bowls. Even though accents are often detached from the basic letterforms, it does not mean they are any less important, or that they belong to punctuation.

vernacular alphabets

The latter is a very common misconception and deserves some clarification. Punctuation is a tool to divide and structure sentences. Its style can differ (and it often does, in order to deliver the requisite distinction) from the stylistic principles of the letters. On the contrary, accents should form a harmonious whole with the letter-shapes they accompany, as they are intended to make consistent word-shapes to communicate meaning and/or word sounds.

This is nicely illustrated with the alternative caron. In Czech and Slovak, the caron has a special vertical form used on tall characters (ď, ť, ľ, Ľ). Its introduction was no doubt a solution to the limited vertical space available on the body of a piece of metal type. The regular caron (ě, š, č, ň, …) could not fit above the taller characters, therefore the vertical form was placed adjacent to the basic letter-shape. It is often mistakenly referred to as an “apostrophe-like accent”. But the alternative caron has nothing to do with the apostrophe! In fact, their similarity can be very confusing. The Czech word rozhoď (d with caron at the end) is the imperative form of “[do] scatter”. The word rozhod’ (apostrophe at the end), on the other hand, means “[he has] decided” in informal spelling commonly used in the literature. The possibility of text misinterpretation lead designers to come up with various ways of differentiating the caron from the apostrophe. The solution suggested by contemporary designers is based on a tight incorporation of the accents with the letters (see Peter Biľak’s Greta or some typefaces by František Štorm). The accent has a simple vertical wedge shape, whereas the apostrophe is larger and retains its typical comma-like form. Thus, the distinction between letters and punctuation remains clear.

caron issue

There have been various issues with encoding non-Western characters since the early days of computers, and people became accustomed to writing emails and other ephemeral electronic communications without accents. This does not mean that the accents could be omitted in contemporary designs. They are still essential in transmitting meaning precisely, and in aiding readability.

Design of diacritics

The problem with diacritics is how to judge the quality of their design if one is not an experienced reader of a particular language (note that the expectations on the same diacritics may differ depending on the language or geographic area). Some of the biggest type foundries, to this day, employ the very same set of accents for many of the typefaces they produce. This dubious cookie-cutter approach makes for unreliable designs and generally makes things even more confusing. On the other hand, there exists a tradition of good accent design. Such accents have better readability and aesthetic value for the native reader. The following points together with further references should help designers to recognise satisfactory diacritic designs:

1. weight & size

Design of diacritical marks: weight and size. Click to view as PDF

As mentioned above, accents are word-builders. Therefore, they should not stand out from the texture by being either lighter or darker than the letters they accompany. Furthermore, letters with and without accents are semantically equally important, hence the importance of accents should not be undermined by their insufficient size. This becomes even more important at smaller sizes, e.g. around 10–12 points. Type designers tend to judge their accents at big sizes, only to discover (or not) that at text sizes, the accents are underdeveloped and illegible. The smaller the text the bigger and more articulated the accent should be in relation to the basic letter-shape.

2. placement

design of diacritical marks: correct placement

The position of the accent is crucial in order that the correct accent is attributed to the right letter while reading. Many of the accents are visually centred above or below letters. However, there are exceptions where the accent needs to be positioned to the right side of the letter (ogonek in letters -a,e,u- for example) or next to the letter (the aforementioned alternative caron). Proper positioning and proximity of the accents is crucial, but can prove difficult to achieve. The approach differs from display to text sizes and from regular to italic. And indeed, there are different approaches to positioning amongst designers. The general rule of thumb might be that the accents should not fall off the base letters — neither to the right nor to the left — when centred. Neither should they appear to belong to adjacent letters.

design of diacritics: placement of ogonek

3. stylistic harmony

Weight and placement definitely have greater influence on readability than stylistic harmony. Nevertheless, stylistic harmonisation should never be underestimated. Particularly, when it comes to contrast distribution in the accents. Type designers often “overdo” the application of the “characters’ style” applying the very same contrast and stress axis to the diacritics. The diacritics are not small letters, hence the contrast in accents such as acute, grave or caron may be very dissimilar to the contrast within the base letterforms.

diacritics: stylistic harmony

In order to achieve better legibility and articulated shapes, designers often use so-called symmetrical accents for their text typefaces (see figure below) thus achieving a very good compromise between stylistic unity and readability. The stress axis in these accents varies, for the main goal is to produce symmetrical shapes. The design and placement of asymmetrical accents have proven difficult to master. Such accents work well mostly in typefaces based on broad nibbed pen calligraphy (for a nice mid-way solution see one of the previous figures with Arno by Robert Slimbach; the capital accents are symmetrical — with breve being the odd one out — where the lowercase accents are more influenced by calligraphy).

diacritics: symmetrical accents

It is recommended to reduce the contrast between thicks and thins as accents are proportionally smaller, and the thin parts tend to become fragile. Some other principles worth mentioning: the style of the simple endings should be the same as in the letter-shapes. More elaborate terminals (such as serifs, bulbous terminals, &c.) usually have no place in the accents. When the typeface employs open counters, the accents (cedilla, ogonek) should likewise have open counters (wide apertures). Of course, the stroke modulation should be as similar as possible.

As there is limited space above the capitals, special uppercase accents need to be used. These are smaller and shallower and better complement the capitals. Some designers also create special accents for use with small caps. This is especially advisable in cases where the style of caps (and small caps) and lowercase differ significantly; otherwise, lowercase accents can be applied without any problem.

Last, but not least, styling of the accents should not make them too similar to each other. Too shallow an acute may be mistaken for a macron; too rounded a caron mistaken for a breve. For the sake of legibility, the design of diacritics should not stray too far from their standard, accepted forms.

4. fitting/kerning

Diacritics should not collide and produce illegible shapes. For that reason, careful fitting and kerning is required. No type designer can foresee every possible diacritical combination, so typographers are strongly advised to apply their own judgement and taste.

Diacritics: kerning. Click to view as PDF.

Conclusion

The broad topic of diacritics is clearly beyond the scope of this general introduction, but it should be evident by now that diacritics are not merely an add-on to the basic letters. They make letters.

The views presented here focus primarily on text typefaces, where the demands, for obvious reasons, are higher. Careful research and sensitivity to their utility and aesthetic should help typographers to choose typefaces with well-designed diacritics (or at least recognise their shortcomings), thus improving the quality of many a vernacular text.

Further reading online

About the author

  • David Březina is a type designer and typographer with a computer science background. His interests lie in non-Latin type design and typography of multilingual and complex texts. He graduated with distinction from the MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading (UK), and has since been working with Tiro Typeworks. He occasionally publishes in Typo magazine. David is currently fighting with the upright omega of his soon-to-be-released typeface Skolar.

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  1. A very informative and interesting article. I’ve not used too many diacritics before, but when I do, i’m sure I will refer back to this article.

  2. I’m a fan of Islamic calligraphy, would be great if you can cover them as well. Try to check out this book, Islamic Design - A Genius for Geometry. They also include a little bit information on calligraphy.

    By the way, what’s the difference between typography and calligraphy?

  3. Nice job David. Right on target!

  4. Excellent article, thanks!

  5. These issues are always interesting. I can sometimes feel like I’m guessing a little bit, or kind of use what I *think* is a common sense when building accents for languages I don’t speak.

    So, thanks for a very good article! :)

  6. David, this is excellent. I’ve already integrated the offline comments that you sent me a few days ago into my design. Now I’ll be staying up all night tweaking thanks to the additional items that you describe so well here ;-)

    Rafie
    what’s the difference between typography and calligraphy?

    Boy, that is a whole can of worms! I will go out on a limb and say that the two are very different. This is because calligraphy is written by hand, whereas typography creates documents using pre-composed elements. It is a mechanical process. Note of course that you can make calligraphy that looks like typography, and vice versa. Yet they still remain what they are. It has to do with process.

  7. Martin Šnajdr

    Great article, thank you so much!

    Díky Davide,
    posílám pozdrav z Karlových Varů :)

  8. Some considerable time has gone into preparing the text and illustrations, so I’d like to thank David too. I’ve enjoyed reading it (I guess about 50 times).

    Rafie
    Dan is spot on when he highlights that it’s the process that really differentiates the two.

  9. David,

    thanks for the excellent summary of the topic.

    I agree with most of the points, though I’d like to point out that the sentence “Type designers often ‘overdo’ the application of the “characters’ style” applying the very same contrast and stress axis to the diacritics” combined with the illustration of Veronika Burian’s Maiola may lead the reader to a misleading conclusion that you’re actually criticizing Maiola’s diacritics, which I believe was not your intention. Indeed, I believe Maiola’s diacritics are very self-confident and quite elaborate, but certainly not overdone. However, it needs to be pointed out that replicating some stylistic elements of the main letterforms in the diacritics needs to be done with caution, and should not be blind copy-paste (I believe that is the point that you were trying to make).

    With diacritics that are integrated with the base letterforms, such as ogonek, cedilla or hook, one helpful rule of thumb may be: the more calligraphic the typeface in flair is, the more integrated the diacritics should be — the should flow into the base letterforms smoothly, which is especially important in glyphs such as Ų or ę but also in Ą. On the other hand, if a typeface is very typographic, more constructed or sculpted than written, those diacritics can also be more “attached” than “integrated” — but they still need to form one outline (so there are no overlaps or composites).

    Another point that is worth mentioning is the spacing. Letters with diacritics need to be tested extensively in combination with various letters. Especially combinations with tall or diagonal letters need to be tested carefully.

    For example, the Slovak word “tabuľka” should not look like there is a wordspace or visible gap between the “l” and the “k” — this is very different from the treatment of English apostrophic contractions such as don’t or isn’t. This may be a tough design challenge because on the other hand, in combinations such as “ľk” or “ďb” the prime-shaped caron should not clash into the tall letter that follows it. So indeed, a rule of thumb is that the prime-shaped caron in ď, ľ and ť is better off when it is not too elaborately-drawn (the ′ shape works often better than the ’ shape).

    Another though case is the ł, which often occurs in combinations such as “chałwa” or “łydka” and potentially clashes with the diagonal letters (y, w). So sometimes, a tiny bit of positive kerning may be required there. The “ł” is a difficult character to draw anyway. The diagonal stroke is certainly not a “slash”, it needs to be drawn carefully. It should not bee too thick, it should have the same optical thickness as the thin diagonal strokes in k, v or x. If those strokes have some delicate tapering, so should the diagonal stroke in ł. The right part of that stroke may be a tiny bit longer than the left one, especially if the l has a serif on the top. The diagonal stroke should cross the l in or slightly above the optical middle of the l but below the x-height (the right part of the diagonal stroke can safely end above the x-height). The angle of the stroke must not be too flat (so it never should look almost-horizontal) but it should not be too steep either — in lack of better judgment you can stick to the angle of 36 degrees, which often works well.

    In handwritten/script typefaces, the ł actually should not have a diagonal stroke in the middle but a horizontal, sometimes slightly wavy, flat stroke at the top. See Robert Slimbach’s Caflisch Script Pro (the OpenType version, not the old Type 1 version), Hermann Zapf’s Zapfino Extra Pro (the Extra Pro version, not the Apple TrueType or the old Type 1 version), Andreas Seidel’s Gracia, Tomáš Brousil’s Bistro Script and Ken Barber’s Studio Lettering for excellent examples of how this should be done (Gracia, Bistro Script and Studio Lettering even include very helpful łł ligatures).

    Another tricky one is “ŀ” as in the Catalan word “iŀlustrar”. The middle dot in “ŀ” should be placed so that when followed by a regular “l” it appears visually centered between the two “l”-shapes. The gap between those two letter should not be too visible either (so the problem is similar to the letters with the prime-shaped caron), but of course the dot should be distinctly visible (so ŀl does not look like an H). In very bold typefaces, the size of the dot can be considerably smaller than the i-dot, and its shape can be often narrow, or even rectangular rather than round.

    Finally, one word about the uppercase Ł. The diagonal stroke should have the same optical thickness as the thin elements in V, K, X (better slightly thinner than too thick). The vertical middle of the diagonal stroke should be aligned with the E-bar, and — very importantly — the right part of the stroke should be much longer than the left part. It should extend bravely into the inner whitespace of L, it should not be too anemic or too short.

    Most importantly: whenever looking for good models for diacritics, do not look at old designs that have been “upgraded” with diacritics, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Frutiger or Adobe Caslon Pro. Look at more recent designs where the original designer drew the diacritics along with the basic character set, such as the Microsoft ClearType fonts (Constantia, Calibri, Corbel) or the newest Adobe fonts (Brioso Pro, Arno Pro, Hypatia Sans Pro).

    John Hudson’s extended Helvetica Linotype (but not the Helvetica Pro or any other version) is also a good model, other noteworthy examples include Nick Shinn’s Scotch Modern, Underware’s Fakir, Carl Crossgrove’s Beorcana, Tim Ahrens’ Lapture, Andreas Seidel’s Toshna, Łukasz Dziedzic’s FF Good Pro, Jovica Veljović’s Silentium Pro, Jeremy Tankard’s Bliss Pro, TypeTogether’s Bree, Chester’s Mavis and Robert Slimbach’s Sanvito Pro, just to name a few.

    You’ve kindly included a link to my article “Polish diacritics how-to”, which contains more practical hints and some illustrations. Also, there are consultants such as myself who are glad to have a look at work in progress and provide feedback.

    Best,
    Adam

  10. Adam
    A few years ago, Linotype renamed Helvetica Linotype (which John Hudson did indeed contribute a great deal to) Helvetica World.

    Johno
    I hope that you don’t mind me posting a link to Helvetica World. I’m only doing a little bit of advertising :-)
    Helvetica World may be found and viewed here.

  11. Hey Adam,

    Nice additions. Your site is still the definitive resource for Polish diacritics :)

    That is a very good point about being careful of the sources you consult. It is unfortunate to see mistakes of the past being repeated simply because of misplaced trust or not knowing better. And with this trend of making revivals… hopefully problematic diacritics and non-Latin scripts can be corrected rather than remade incorrectly.

    r.k

  12. Dan
    No problem. Pleased you mentioned it.

  13. Really great article, thanks for the information.

  14. Thanks a lot for this informative article!

    Tom in Germany

  15. David!

    This is great stuff! Every time I read something about this topic I realise I I still have bits and pieces to learn. The diacritics are so tiny but yet so “powerful”. As a designer you have keep focused on those details in order to make an overall good impression.

  16. Congratulations for the great article—and thank you for the link!

  17. Terrific article, David! This is a keeper for reference—including comments.

    Chris

  18. maeda

    thank you!

    čćšžđ :)

  19. I am glad that people like it.

    Adam. Uff. Such a long comment! Thanks for all the additions. Valid points.

    Of course, I am not critisizing Maiola at this place. It is one of the best examples of well-designed calligraphic-based accents. Unless said otherwise, all examples are generally good designs.

    I did not want to go into a detailed description about how to draw particular accents and repeat what others have already said before (for this reason links to further reading are included). The aim was to cover general principles and the reasoning behind.

  20. Great to see Welsh get a mention in an article on typography.

    As well as the issues with setting digraphs (ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh, th) it is also worth noting that in addition to the traditional 5 latin vowels, in Welsh the letters w and y are considered to be vowels (oo and ee sounds respectively).

    With all seven Welsh vowels able to feature the acute, grave, circumflex or diaeresis accents, this can make for some interesting issues when working with type in the Welsh language!

    Anyway, as usual an excellent article. Keep up the great work!

  21. David,

    Indeed, making a long list of specific comments on all possible diacritics would exhaust the scope of such article.

    In my comment, I tried to address the “biggest specific catches” that I’ve encountered when advising a number of type designers on recent typefaces.

    I’ve seen a number of efforts that were admirable in general, and they showed an overall good understanding of the principles, especially when it came to the “diacritics floating on the top”. But indeed, I found that even then, the letters ď, ľ, ť, ŀ and ł caused the designers the most trouble, because those letters are on one hand so unusually-shaped and require extra care at letterfitting/spacing, and on the other hand are used only in a rather small number of languages (mostly Czech, Slovak, Catalan, Polish).

    So some final general advice I can give is: when designing letters that are commonly found only in one language or a handful related languages, it is advisable to follow the local “flavors and conventions” more seriously (i.e. in a sense one is less flexible when designing them), while if you’re making letters that are used in a wide number of different languages and cultures, you have several choices:

    Either you try to find a compromise that works “good” in as many languages as possible (i.e. you make very few users very unhappy but you won’t make too many users very happy);

    or you provide a number of flavors or alternates for some letters (i.e. you make many users very happy but you complicate their and your life a bit and require more work from them and you);

    or finally, you adapt one particular local convention or flavor, and discard the others (then you make some users very happy and some very unhappy).

    So, there is no “best way”, there are always choices and decisions to make.

    A.

  22. Beautiful piece. Thanks, David.

  23. Nicely categorized, David, with exquisite diagrams.

  24. This is an excellent article that strikes chord with my all-time frustration: whenever I find an amazing typeface, it turns out that it does not include diacritics… My site is in Hungarian, a language that supports all kinds of diacritics (í, ű, á, é, ú, ő [this one is the most problematic along with ű], ó, ü, and ö), and it is rather frustrating to try every font I love and then drop them because of their lack. So, thanks for calling attention to this problem, and for offering solution!

  25. maeda

    Zoltán, exact same problem here, either for web or print, many beautiful typefaces don’t have Croatian diacritics, čćš.. etc, it can be frustrated indeed.

  26. Dan & johno
    Thanks for the insight. I thought it the same too and your statement conform it. Thanks a lot!

  27. This is just a terrific piece. Congrats and thanks for writing it, David. And thanks, John for running it.

    I haven’t typeset anything more foreign (than my native English) than a little bit of Greek, German, and French. Not even whole books, but merely passages. So my use of diacritics have been sorely limited. I recall using about a dozen of the “selected Latin accents” above. But I certainly plan to bookmark this as a reference.

    John, I wonder why not/would you consider adding a button for turning articles into PDFs? It would be great to be able to sock away a printed copy of something like this for future reading away from the desktop.

  28. maeda

    pdf articles would be great, and maybe a book, there is plenty of quality material already

  29. vt

    This was a great article. In fact, they’re all much appreciated :)
    Greetings from Serbia

  30. You might enjoy this.

  31. Thank you all. But please keep in mind that the article went through John’s exhaustive editing. Otherwise it would not as readable as now.

    Rafie & Dan & johno
    Re the calligraphy. It is indeed an imperfection. The mentions above (calligraphy, calligraphic principles) should be understood as broad-nibbed-pen calligraphy.

  32. ermin

    Great article, David!

  33. Great article, thanks very much.

    Here is a small article about the making of the Icelandic glyphs if anyone cares to read – and hopefully use to make them better: http://font.is/?p=7

  34. Clint

    Get article! Small typo: in the second sentence it should be “let alone” not “let lone”.

  35. Excellent work, David!

    The only thing I’m not sure is the hcircumflex. Although I myself prefer the solution you show here, Esperanto-speakers might like it to be centered: John Castle on hcircumflex

  36. Randolph Capp

    Excellent article. Just one inaccuracy: You wrote that in the Arabic writing system “commonly only consonants are written…” Letters written in Arabic script are for consonants AND long vowels. Short vowels (among other things) are represented by the diacritics, and in Modern Standard Arabic these marks representing short vowels are usually omitted because they are understood from the context.

  37. Fantastic article, diacritics are probably the thing I like most about typography. They certainly can make or break a typeface.

    I also noticed you used &c. for etc. This is the first time I’ve seen this done. Care to comment?

  38. Great article, thank you very much!

  39. Torbjørn Vik Lunde

    Very interesting post and very relevant to me (as a Norwegian).
    Thanks. :)

  40. Martin,

    > I also noticed you used &c. for etc. This is the first time
    > I’ve seen this done. Care to comment?

    This was a common practice in Latin (after all & stands for “et”) and is still used in English to this day, albeit not so often.

    A.

  41. Well! All that is really great!
    But I for example am from Europe (Eastern Europe), Bulgaria.
    My name is Anton.

    Most of all I have about fonts is the really poor resource of Cyrillic fonts. Even there is no way to bye some. In the best way I only can find some Russian fonts and use them (in some ways).

    There is no way to convert universal fonts to Cyrillic once, right?

  42. Thank you for this article! It is an important issue that many font designers overlook, and it’s very frustrating for someone like me who makes websites in multiple languages!

  43. Clint
    Thanks. Fixed.

  44. i have no reason to have enjoyed this article so much, but i did. well done. : )

  45. Alejandro

    There are also many diacriticals in the Guaraní language, especially the «pusó».

    Link.

  46. For more on czech accents see the paper from the Euro TeX Meeteng 2007 by Karel Horák [PDF].

  47. Fascinating article, David: particularly since I’m always interested in linguistics and am attempting to learn Czech.

  48. BTW, the worst diacritic glyph I’ve ever seen, was (I think, the OpenType has now a corrected one) the Hungarumlaut ˝ from Linotype Aroma (which is a highly pleasent font nevertheless). The glyph is still in the TrueType font; the following link is a PNG picture of that glyph:

    hungarumlaut

  49. Plamen
    That link doesn’t work for me in any browser. Mail it to me at jboardley … at gmail … dot … com.

  50. Colonthree! :3

    This is so useful and interesting, thank you very much!

    P.S. When using a feed from this site every article shows up as written by “johno”, maybe you should fix that?

  51. Matthew Williams

    Thanks for this. Very good reading.

    One thing that is consistently a problem for me (in setting text; God forbid I try to design a font) is finding a good transliteration of the Arabic ayn and hamza. True, they’re not really diacritics, but in Latin transliterations, they more or less have to behave as such. I’ve searched a fair bit online to find out what, exactly, they’re supposed to look like, but all I get is the incredibly unsatisfying half-ring. Someday I’ll schlep to the library and try to find some old specimens that might show them.

    Thanks again.

  52. Has anyone any access to resources for Devanagari fonts standards and practices?
    This was a very good post!

  53. Thank you.

    As being another Dane with a love for typography, not being able to use æ, ø & å, when writing texts in more special typography, is a major problem.

    Still this is just a small problem though, in comparence to the Czech language. Your article here has really given me a look into the world of diacritical marks. This is especially one of the areas I’ll try to play with and learn from when I start making real fonts instead of just playing with different letters being adjusted to a typeface. I’m actully looking forward to it, thought it’s properly hard work.

  54. Hi There

    Love your blog and what your are doing. but IMHO your last theme is better. :) Anyway, can i interview you for my website? Email me is the answer is yes

  55. amazing!!!

    Typography is indeed important! and i just know that fact recently… poor me!

  56. David,

    I want your help with a project. I want to make 15 diacrititic marks for the 15 vowel sounds in English, and use them to help little kids learn to read. Please give me a shout!
    Chris Bogardus, 828-406-9580

  57. Aniat

    Good article!

    I think you’re missing the ü and Ü, an “u” letter with two little point over it.
    Here we call the “diéresis” or “crema”.

    In Spanish we need it to mark a difference between “gue” and “güe”, the first one, the U is mute; on the second, you have to pronnounce the U.

    Like: guerra (muted U), paragüero (u with sound)

    Thank you!

  58. As David explained, his article was not an extensive treaty on all possible diacritics, more a short overview. Indeed, “¨”called “trema” (from Greek τρημα, “perforation”) or “diaeresis” (from Greek διαίρεσις, “choice between”), in German also called “Umlaut” (“change of sound”), is an important diacritic character. One important mistake, shared with the “˙” (“dot accent” or “overdot”) found in many fonts is that the overall form is radically different from the i-dot.

    For example, in ITC Franklin Gothic, the dot over i is square but the diaeresis is made of two round dots: http://tinyurl.com/apq7sc
    This does not make sense. Of course the diaeresis dots usually need to be smaller than the i-dot, but should share the same formal characteristics (so they should optically look alike). In the bolder weights of ITC Franklin Gothic, the dieresis is not only of wrong shape but also is too light. Of course in typefaces influenced by calligraphy, the dot over i can safely have a slightly different shape than the dieresis (e.g. in Robert Slimbach’s Arno Pro), but in very regular geometric faces the shapes should be very harmonized.

    The placement also tends to be a problem. In some typefaces the dot over i is placed very high (e.g. the Garamond display cuts), but the dieresis (and the dot over other letters such as o or z) can safely be placed lower. But if there is no compelling reason for the i-dot to be placed at a different height, the placement of all diacritics should be harmonized with the placement of the i-dot.

  1. Kit·Blog Notes—Jan 25, 2009

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