The basics

2 Clarifying confusing terms

As with many subjects, terminology within typography can be confusing. Sometimes there are words that we already use (or have heard others use) but we could be using them incorrectly. Or maybe you’ve never heard these words before and have no idea what they might mean. Either way, it is important to establish a common vocabulary so that when someone says “that isn’t very readable” we can differentiate that from “that isn’t very legible.” It is also important to remember that you don’t need to be pedantic about these terms. You’ll understand what I mean pretty soon…

Typeface / Font

These are often used interchangeably and present the most potential for pedantic nonsense. We’re going to define them here, but please be a decent person and don’t worry about it if someone uses them incorrectly.

Characters / Glyphs

You may have never heard these terms before but that’s okay. These terms are how designers refer to the individual letters in a font.

Legibility / Readability

While they sound similar, these terms are definitely different. Legibility refers only to the characteristics of a typeface or font, while readability is connected with how the type has laid out. I have included a Youtube video below (not made by myself) that explains this in further detail and provides some helpful tips on making text more readable.




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Typography Handbook Copyright © by David Piechnik is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.