Type composition

Good ty­pog­ra­phy starts with good typ­ing. This chap­ter is a tour of the non­al­pha­betic char­ac­ters on the com­puter key­board—some ob­scure, some un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated, and some well-known but misused.

A text is a se­quence of char­ac­ters. Every char­ac­ter is a tool. Your goal: to al­ways use the right tool for the job.

To­day’s com­puter key­boards de­pict the avail­able char­ac­ters in al­most the same way as a man­ual type­writer. But this de­pic­tion is mis­lead­ing. The com­puter key­board can pro­duce many more char­ac­ters than the ones vis­i­ble on its keys. These in­clude ac­cented char­ac­ters, math sym­bols, and white-space char­ac­ters—in­vis­i­ble mark­ers that are use­ful for get­ting con­sis­tent ty­po­graphic results.

Be­ware. This chap­ter is more dif­fi­cult than it might seem. Typ­ing is sec­ond na­ture for most of us. Habits are in­grained. Af­ter years of do­ing things one way, it can be hard to learn a dif­fer­ent way.

But it’s worth it. By typ­ing the right char­ac­ters while writ­ing and edit­ing, you’ll save time and ef­fort later on when you’re for­mat­ting and lay­ing out your document.