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Incomplete fonts and how to fix them

A computer screen with black text on white background showing lines of the alphabet in different fonts.

Fonts are “the clothes that words wear,” said early 20th-century editor Beatrice Warde.

And just like our clothing, the font you choose says much about your personality.

Many writers use the default options. For a long time this was Times New Roman, later switching to Calibri and Cambria. Some authors prefer to write in Courier New for its ‘typewritery’ feel. But what about typesetters and E-Book creators?

When designing printed material, there are a myriad of typefaces out there to play with. Each one gives your book, leaflet or magazine a different feel.

The problem comes when the typeface you’ve selected is incomplete. Meaning it doesn’t have a full and comprehensive character set.

Let’s say you’ve chosen a font called Spectral. Unbeknownst to you, it doesn’t have an apostrophe or a diacritical like ą or ø. For printed materials, this isn’t a problem as the designer or typesetter can manually set a substitute typeface for that particular character.

But what happens when that same material gets digitised into an E-Book or for the web? The webpage, or eReader has nothing to work with, so it goes to a default and produces a character that’s not part of the font package. Sometimes it just renders a square.

If you’re lucky, this default will be similar enough to pass, but if you’re not – say your text is in a serifed font like Suranna and your device's default is Arial – you’ll get a mismatched, mis-sized character in the middle of your text. Disaster!

3 ways to fix a missing character in your chosen typeface.

  1. We know it’s obvious, but try and ensure that you’re using a font package that has all the characters you need. This will save you hassle.

  2. Substitute the font out for as near identical one as you can find that does have all the needed characters; fonts like Times New Roman, Georgia, Calibri and Arial have a pretty comprehensive list.

  3. Your typesetter can add a simple extra command to the CSS.

Instead of:

font-family: “Suranna”; <style this line to display as computer code>

Change it to:

font-family: “Suranna”, serif; <style this line to display as computer code>

Final tip

For E-Book production an important thing to remember is that, while your typeface may display its missing characters fine in a web browser or preview software, it may not do so in a physical eReader, which are less comprehensive than the web browsers we are used to using.

The team at Siliconchips routinely check typeset files to make sure that font packages contain all required glyphs and, when they don’t, we will always work with you to find an appropriate substitution or alternativ

Contact us today, and get your book designed and printed to perfection.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

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