Lorem Ipsum, Smart Quotes, Orphans and Widows. Let’s talk typography. - Graphic Design Wilmington NC // b.Branded CreativeGraphic Design Wilmington NC // b.Branded Creative

Lorem Ipsum, Smart Quotes, Orphans and Widows. Let’s talk typography.

Emily Kane

Typography lingo can seem like a foreign language to someone outside of the design world. Here’s a quick and simple lesson on a few key typography concepts.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit…

No, this is not the secret language of graphic designers. It’s actually a standard mix of latin that has been used for centuries in the design world as placeholder “dummy text.” We use “lorem ipsum” to fill pages and get a general sense of design before copy has been written and developed. It looks more natural and less distracting than writing “Insert copy here.” So next time you see a page full of latin, or some other sort of gibberish, rest assured it’s “lorem ipsum” and not a secret message your graphic designer is sending you!


Don’t be a fool, use “Smart Quotes”!

There are smart quotes and dumb quotes and prime marks. Knowing which one to use and when will make you look “smart!” Smart quotes are the curly looking marks used to open and close quotations. They are also the proper mark for an apostrophe. Dumb quotes are straight and look like tick marks. They should not be used in typography. Prime marks are the straight marks used for measurements (don’t confuse with dumb quotes). For more information on this often overlooked, and usually forgotten topic, check out http://smartquotesforsmartpeople.com/ and bookmark this site as a quick reference tool!


Kern. Track. Lead.

Kerning is the space between each letter of a word. Sometimes fonts automatically kern letters too close, or too far apart. It requires a manual adjustment. Believe it or not, this is something designers adjust and tweak until perfection, which in the end results in better readability.

Tracking is similar to kerning, but adjusts the spacing between all the letters of a word, versus only the space between just two letters. Tracking can be useful when you’re short on space and need to fit just a little more content on to one line or page. However, it must be used with caution, and a little goes a long way. Too much tracking will make things look squished and difficult to read. It can also be used for dramatic effect and with purpose. This can sometimes be a nice treatment for a simple headline or logo type treatment.

Leading is the spacing between lines of type. This can also affect the readability and look of a design and must be used cautiously. Again, similar principles to tracking apply. If the leading is too tight, things will look squished and be difficult to read. Spacing out the leading can sometimes be a nice treatment for pull quotes or headlines.

These three techniques can magically make or break readability. With the proper balance of all three, readers can breeze through your content with ease.


Orphans and Widows and Rags…Oh My!

We’re not talking the Annie kind…Orphans are the words that get left all alone at the bottom of a paragraph. Help them out! Don’t leave them all alone. Bring them up into the previous line by adjusting kerning and shifting elements within your page layout. It will make your page look nicer, and graphic designers everywhere will breath a sigh of relief.

Widows are lines of text that get separated from their paragraph and sent to a new column or page. Just like orphans, don’t leave them all alone – bring them back to their paragraph!

A rag is the uneven side of your lines of text (usually the right side of a left-justified paragraph). Harsh and jagged rags make the page look messy. It’s nice to keep this as even as possible. This is one more thing to keep in mind when adjusting your kerning and tracking.


These are just a few of the commonly overlooked details of good typography. Well thought out typography can set your brand apart and make you look polished and professional. If you’d like to leave your typesetting to the pros, drop us a line at 910.681.0548 or send us an email.