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Incomplete fonts? Use these fixes

Twitter was a-storm this week over typefaces. What started as an innocent question by author Sean Richardson – ‘reveal the deepest part of yourself: Which font and which size do you write in?’ – opened the floodgates for some very impassioned arguments and deep, engrained feeling to come boiling to the surface. So far, so Twitter.

Many writers use the default options – whatever is the default in their iteration of MS Word. For a long time this was Times New Roman, later switching to Calibri and Cambria. Some authors prefer to write in – or later reformat en masse to – Courier New for its ‘typewritery’ feel. But what about typesetters and eBook creators?

When designing printed material, there are myriad typefaces out there to play with to make your book/leaflet/magazine, etc. beautiful. The problem comes when the typeface you’ve selected is incomplete, that is it doesn’t have a full and comprehensive character set. With printed material, let’s say font x doesn’t have an apostrophe or a diacritical like ą or ø, the designer or typesetter can manually set a substitute typeface for that particular character. But what can happen when that same materials gets digitized into eBooks or for the web, is that the webpage (or eReader) comes up against this character that’s not part of the font package and it’s got nothing to work with, so it goes to a default (and if you haven’t set the character using an entity, it may just render 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 devices default is Arial – you’ll get a mismatched, mis-sized character in the middle of your text. How do you fix this?

The first and most obvious choice is to make sure that you’re using a font package that has all the characters you need in the first place. The second is to 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, but as more and more languages get added to the Unicode standard and font formats cannot contain more than 65,535 glyphs, no one typeface can be 100% inclusive. The third, back-up option, is to add a simple extra command to your CSS. So instead of just:

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

you change it to

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

For eBook 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 nowadays.

At Siliconchips we routinely check our typeset files to make sure that font packages contain all called for glyphs and, where they are not, we will always confer with you to make sure that an appropriate substitution or alternative is implemented.

If you have any questions or need any further advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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