TypeTalk: Two-Story Type

TypeTalk is a regular blog on typography. Post your questions and comments by clicking on the Comments icon above. If Ilene answers your question in the blog, you’ll receive one Official Creativepro.com T-Shirt!

Q. Are there official terms for the variants of the lowercase a and lowercase g?

A. The official terms are not very official-sounding, but here’s the scoop:

There are two forms of the lowercase letter a: the single (or one) story (or storey) and the double (or two) story (or storey).

The single-story version is the one we learn to write as children and is commonly (but not exclusively) used in handwriting, calligraphy, and many italics. The two-story version is more common in Roman, or upright, typestyles. Both versions evolved from the capital letterform, as you can see in some Uncial scripts where the A looks like a combination of both. Uncial scripts are all-cap letterforms that appeared in Greek and Latin manuscripts from the fourth to the eighth century AD.

Similarly, the lowercase g comes in single- and double-story variants, and it’s also referred to as single and double loop, bowl, or tail. We learn to write the single-story g as children, and it’s most common in handwriting, calligraphy, and italics. The more ornate two-story g is found in many Roman, or upright, typestyles.

Figure 1. ITC Century Book, ITC Conduit, and Nueva Std. all contain two-story versions of a and g for the upright versions and one-story for the italics, but not all typefaces are that consistent.

Figure 2. Other typefaces vary tremendously in the style of their ‘a’s and ‘g’s, as shown in these examples set in Perpetua, Giacomo 2.0, Adobe Caslon Pro, ITC Humana Serif, and Egyptian Slate Pro.

These rules of appearance are very loose. You’ll see either version of both characters in any typeface following no discernible rule. Even so, knowing the terminology and recognizing the differences between the versions give you a tool to observe differences in typestyles and a language to discuss them.

Read more about the history of the letters A and G.

Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

Posted on: February 19, 2009

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community.

4 Comments on TypeTalk: Two-Story Type

  1. It’s great to hear you feature Quark’s outstanding typographic tools! I having long pursued excellence in typography, and even have a website dedicated to quality typography (www.kernprose.com).

    As a previous studio manager of a major Michigan Avenue, I have personally lamented the waning interest in quality typography. Using Quark’s Kern Table editor, we developed and libraried entire tables of kerned fonts, allowing us to import professional tables that would take hours to build. This created unparalleled quality and consistency.

    I have appreciated following your articles, and have learned much about the craft I love from them. It’s great seeing Quark get some of the press it deserves.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Hmmm. NIce post. Never really thought of the difference in the a’ and g’s before. Thanks for enlightening me.provillusearth4energygrow taller 4 idiotsmagic of making uphow to stop acnehomemade energy

  3. Who invented double storey ‘a’?

  4. Thanks for excellent article

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