I teach introductory typography to students studying graphic design.

While constructing a list of design factors that affect the appearance, readability, and legibility of a typographic letterform, symbol, glyph, etc.; I hit a wall.

I am looking for the collective term category/group name for the styles whose letterforms can be differentiated by the presence or absence of a design trait — serif, sans serif.

The definitions of each are well documented:

In typography, serifs are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface that has serifs is called a serif typeface (or seriffed typeface). A typeface without serifs is called sans-serif, from the French sans, meaning “without”. Some typography sources refer to sans-serif typefaces as “grotesque” (in German “grotesk”) or “Gothic”, and serif types as “Roman”.

Here's the list I prepared to meet my deadline. I had to go with stroke. Can I do any better for my revision?

Here are factors that affect ease of reading.

  • case: upper & lower case mix is more readable than all caps
  • x-height: larger is more readable than smaller
  • leading: more is more readable than solid
  • line length: shorter (10-12 words) are more easily readable than longer
  • alignment: ragged-right is more readable than justified
  • weight: medium is more readable than light or bold
  • measure: normal is more readable than condensed or expanded
  • margins: moderate is more readable than tight
  • contrast: black (dark) on yellow (light) background is more readable than others
  • substrate: smooth backgrounds are more readable than textured ones
  • stroke: many agree that serifs are more readable than sans serifs

2 Answers 2



A study of the structure or internal workings of something.

(Oxford Dictionary)

This would seem to be the most appropriate word to use.

Stroke is used for a particular typographic detail, specifically the main vertical diagonal of a letter, so should not be used as the generic term for the letter elements.

Anatomy is used by a number of resources to describe the elements of letterforms.

Typedia - Anatomy of a Typeface

Fonts.com - Anatomy of a Character

Visme - A Visual Guide to the Anatomy of Typography

  • I was/am looking for a specific (not generic) term inclusive of both. You misunderstood my requirement. Strokes have a beginning and an end. As such, I require a term inclusive to the ends formed with any of a variety or none at all.
    – Stan
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:30

In typography, any stem or stroke which does not end in a serif is called a terminal. There are a number of terminal varieties, just as there are different varieties of serifs. The differentiating term for the two possible outcomes is stem/stroke ending.

See: Typography Deconstructed

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