Chinese Italics: where are the Oblique Chinese fonts?

There are some questions that come up again and again when typesetters and designers who are used to working with Roman fonts start to tackle Chinese typesetting. One perennial issue, which crops up even in professional fonts which supply several weights, is why are there no oblique cuts?

The short answer is because it’s bad and it’s wrong. Find some other way to emphasis or pick out text (or cheat and do it anyway – see the conclusion below).
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Chinese typesetting basics

Chinese is a global language of increasing importance. The population of China is over 1.3 billion, and the number of Chinese internet users has been predicted to have topped 550 million by the end of 2011. Yet Chinese typesetting engenders some unique challenges for those more used to European languages.
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Numbers in Different Languages: Typesetting Multilingual Numerals

Not all languages share the same numerals; something it can be importantly to remember from the start of the design process. A page design that plays on the shape of a number might fall apart when typeset in a foreign language.

First, what we all have in common. Whatever language we speak, we all count. Quantities matter. The vast majority of languages have separate words for particular amounts. 

Many of these use the same symbols for these amounts as we do in English. The French might say “dix” when the English say “ten”, but we both write “10”.

But many languages do not use the same symbols. Continue reading “Numbers in Different Languages: Typesetting Multilingual Numerals”

Greek typesetting without the tears

Greek protester masked against tear gas
Greek demonstrator protects herself against tear gas
Pic: Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

Greece has been prominent in the news for all the wrong reasons for a year or two. But whether you need to typeset an instruction manual or a protest banner (!), there are some issues in Greek typesetting to be aware of.
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Numbers in Arabic: Hindi numerals or Arabic numerals?

Two different forms of numerals exist in Arabic text. You can write precisely the same number using either of the two systems of numerals. This means you can use either Arabic numerals or Hindi numerals to write numbers in Arabic typesetting. But what’s the difference and which is best to use?
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Bon appétit longer in French!

Text translated into a foreign language will usually be a different length to the English original. In languages such as Chinese you can be confident that it will be shorter, but in many languages the translated text will be longer. This can cause problems for the unaware multilingual typesetter or designer.
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Getting started with Korean typesetting

Korean is the language of both South and North Korea, as well as being one of the two official languages in Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture in northeastern China. The script used for writing Korean is know as Hangul in South Korea and Chosongul in North Korea, although it is the same native script dating back to the 15th century. Unlike Chinese, each character expresses a sound, with the sounds combining to form words much like in European languages such as Italian. Korean uses spaces to separate words.
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Unicode just keeps getting bigger

Unicode, the standard for consistent encoding of the world’s writing systems, is a bedrock of modern multilingual typesetting and web design. February saw a major update to this standard to Unicode 6.0. The update adds a further 2,088 characters taking the total to an awe inspiring 109,384.

The update adds 222 additonal CJK Unified Ideographs and 603 additional characters for African language support. It also includes the new Indian rupee sign, designed last year. Three scripts are supported for the first time: Mandaic, Batak and Brahmi. New blocks of characters are also added for areas such as playing cards, transport symbols and alchemical symbols.

Of course, the fact that these characters have been added to the standard does not mean that fonts exist to support them yet but some, such as the rupee sign, are likely to find swift adoption.

A full description of the additions, and complete character tables for the entire standard, are available online at

Getting started with German typesetting

German is an important global language, with approximately 120 million native speakers and perhaps 80 million more who speak it as a second language. It is the main language of Germany and Austria, with a significant part of the Swiss population also having it as a mother tongue. There are also noticeable pockets of German speakers in Namibia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. In fact, German is one of the nine recognised regional languages of Namibia. There are some variations from country to country: for instance, a specific translation may be required for Swiss German.

The German language is particularly important in business, as Germany is an important member of the G8 and the European Union. The economy is the fourth largest in the world (by nominal GDP) and the fifth largest by purchasing power parity. Crucially, Germany has become a goods import/export powerhouse, being the world’s second largest exporter and third largest importer. In other words, Germany exports more than the entire USA. In fact, its exports amount to more than those of France and Japan put together. Going the other way, Germany’s colossal imports are greater than those of the UK and France combined. So, in business terms, German is important but what’s the deal when it comes to German typesetting?
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