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Numbers in text? Use lowercase numerals

Before & After Design Talk

Standard numerals are the size of capital, or uppercase, letters. Their best uses are for standalone numbers like your house number, or, because they have a single set width, for columns of tabular material. Because they line up in columns, they are also referred to as lining numerals. Lining numerals are standard in almost every typeface, and are by far the most widely used.

Old-style numerals are the equivalent of lowercase letters — small x-height, plus ascenders and descenders. They’re the best choice to use in a body of text — for dates, times, addresses, phone numbers, and so on, as in, “He lives at 6451 Elm Street,” or, “The 1979 version had 42,362 points.”

Not all typefaces have old-style numerals — which are sometimes called expert numerals — even as an option. The most widely used typeface that has old-style numerals as the default is web favorite Georgia, which you’re now reading.

Dear Before & After
Issue 21’s “What typefaces are best for text?” is the one I refer to the most. Do you have more stories that analyze and recommend fonts? — Val

Dear Val,
We love that article too. Many of our back-issue articles focus on type and the voice your choices convey to your reader. Almost every PDF has multiple typefaces listed on the resource pages, so you’ll know what fonts were used to produce our graphics and text. Issue 32 has a beautiful center spread titled “Frutiger is crystal clear.” (Get out some thumb tacks; you might end up with it as a poster on your wall.) Another of our most well-received articles in the series “Type, the visible voice” was on page 2 of Issue 23. The typeface is Interstate, and it represents the one used on federal roadway signage. Before & After’s publisher, John McWade, makes no secret of his love of typography. While the analysis is time consuming, and there are hundreds of books filled with chapters of long descriptions, John prefers that each article illustrate examples of typeface suggestions and usage. Issue 11 has page 12’s “Typeface Classification” facing page 13’s “Typeface Combinations” for advice and analysis of choosing text faces for your own type library. Then check out Issue 13’s “How to design a wordmark” and Issue 27’s “Discover the logo in your name.” We could go on and on; there are so many articles that jumped out as we pulled issues off the shelf and flipped through. Get them all on our Master Collection DVD or in our all-back-issues package. And, of course, the Before & After books are compilations of those print back issues, too.

Get more Before & After:

Free articles
Design a logo of letters
How to find the perfect color
What's the right typeface for text?

Free videos
How to design a second page
Extreme photo cropping
Do you need a second logo?
and more . . .

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