Now you know: Serifs and Fonts

Have you ever felt like you always knew something and turns out you didn’t? Paul Harvey used to host a show called “Rest of the story” on the radio. He would take a familiar subject and give you a little known fact or story about the subject. If Paul was alive and decided to run such a show on technology, he would never run out of ideas for the show. There are several terminologies we take for granted on a daily basis. Some of them are real simple and others more complex. I will share my list of such stories here. If you know of any, please feel free to add them as comments below.

I’ve always taken HTML and CSS for granted. So, I decided to learn it in a proper way. Who better to learn than w3schools (W3 stands for WWW)? While I was going through their chapters, ended up on a topic about Fonts,  that caught my attention and this is the basis of my post today.

I use various fonts, like Arial, Times New Roman, MS-Sans-Serif etc. Didn’t pay much attention to the names or how they looked. These Fonts vary in size and shape. Some of them are basic fonts and there are fancy fonts. And of course, there are various other characteristics of a font that make them look different from each other. One such Characteristic is a “Serif”. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Serif is actually a word (noun) that means the little edgers added to letters when we write them. Where as, San-Serif would mean the opposite, those fonts without Serif’s!! (I don’t know if they teach this in English classes in schools, but this is the first time I came across this).

font-typesThough the word is adopted for the computer fonts, the idea of a serif is not new. Apparently, like any western concept, it has origins in Latin and Roman scripts. But it is not unique to the west either. Chinese and Japanse characters have something similar too. See the wikipedia post for more interesting facts.

So next time, you pick a font, enlarge it and see if it has “serifs”. As shown Times New Roman font does and Arial doesn’t.

Apart from these two types, we also have Monospace fonts that have constant width for all characters. Courier New is of this type and is typically used by text editor and program (code) editors. “Courier New” uses Serifs to adjust the widths to be uniform. Check it out.

Now you know (the rest of the story)!

References:

http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_font.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serif
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serif
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sans

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