Font Factor: Ascenders, Descenders, Widows and Orphans

There's No Reason to Fear Fonts

Ascenders and Descenders, Widows and Orphans and why should you care?

Let’s start with the easy part. You use them every day. Or at least anytime you write something. And I mean write – type or handwritten. Same difference. Ascenders and descenders are more common because they are part of letters. Most of us don’t hand write things in uppercase because it takes much longer than mixed case or cursive.

So WHAT are they? They are technical terms for characteristics of paragraphs that often go unruled. UNRULED I SAY!

Paragraphs? We’re talking paragraphs?

Ascenders and Descenders: Above and Below the Law

Obviously, unless your comic doesn’t use words or you don’t post to your blog or you generally have an overwhelming disdain for the written word, you use paragraphs.

While most of us would love to focus on the artistic aspects of our comics, the reality is that there is a portion of creating your comic that requires you to present your creations in a somewhat professional manner.

At least if you want to get the most from it that you can. I’m not going to argue the merits of marketing yourself well and getting the biggest bang for your buck. But there’s a reason large successful companies spend a lot of money looking professional and presenting their products in the best way possible. I know you know that and what we’re talking about here today is a part of that: looking professional with something that can and does get overlooked by most people.

Ascenders and descenders are generally lowercase and parts of the letter that go above and below the other letters in your sentences. Letters with acenders are b, d, f, h, l, k and t. Letters with descenders are g, j, p, q and y. They are important because if your ascenders reach up and touch the descenders in your paragraph, they make it hard to read.

Spacing Issues = Hard To Read

True story. Open any professionally published book and you will be hard pressed to find one that has any letters touching. Did you notice that I qualified published book with “professionally”?

That wasn’t so bad was it? And now if you’ve gotten this far, you’re smarter. I can tell because your head is a little bigger than when we started.

You want more don’t you? C’mon admit it!

There's one more Widow on the page - can you see it?

Fine, either way, I’ll spill a little more knowledge your way. Widows and Orphans. Not as devastating as the real life meaning, they simply refer to the words at the end of a paragraph (widow) or a part of a paragraph that carries over to a new page. As a designer, these drive me crazy – I’m curious if writers feel the same way… I tweaked a pre-existing image from Wikipedia Media – check it out here.

Hopefully this helps you create something of a more professional presentation with your wares/words/stuff.

Ken Drab sporting the thin faced lookKen Drab is at it again trying to win you over with his expertise on fonts. If you didn’t think he was a nerd before, his passion for fonts should definitely convince you. Too bad he doesn’t take his own “unique” advice – as evident in his comic’s own logo.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. A lot of the problems that I find when designing a page is that I allow the font to be manipulated by the layout of the page, for example I don’t justify my text so depending on the system that views my site ascenders and descenders creep up on some sites but not others as well as widows and orphans. I have found that justifying my text withing a framed layout allows for me to control this better. Putting together professional proposals I have found that I concentrate a lot more on the tips above but I never think of them in such depth when creating a web page and that is something I really need to work on.

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