Diacritics: Part 2

Part 1 of this Diacritics series covers the acute, double acute, grave, circumflex, and caron ( ´ ˝ ` ˆ ˇ ). These marks are the ones that are built with diagonal strokes and asymmetric forms.

This post, Part 2, deals with round and symmetrical forms including the dot, umlaut, ring, breve, and macron ( ˙ ¨ ˚ ˘ ¯ ).

Perky Little Dot

I learned my lesson with the kreska, so now with the dot accent ( ˙ ) I’m starting with Polish.

According to Adam Twardoch’s invaluable “Polish Diacritics” resource, the dot accent (called kropka in Polish) “should be always identically shaped and placed as the dot above i. It should be always visually centered relative to the letter” above which it is placed.

So the dot is vertically aligned with the i dot, and is the same shape and size. While in Polish the dot only accompanies the z, these rules apply to other letters and languages using the dot above.

For uppercase letters the dot should be the same size, and its vertical placement should align it with the acute.

The size of the middle dot or the dot below is the same as the dot above, and only the placement differs. For recommendations on placement, see the invaluable Diacritics Project from Typo.cz.

image of lowercase i, dot over z, and dot over uppercase E

Umlaut Is Staring You Down

The umlaut or diaresis ( ¨ ) is the same size and vertical placement as the dot above mark. But there are two of them! For the price of one!

The dots of the umlaut can be a bit smaller than the single dot for aesthetic reasons (color, spacing, etc.). However, it should still have the same vertical placement as the single dot.

The space between the dots are a judgement call. They should be far enough apart that they don’t blur together and look like a macron, but should be close enough together to function as a cohesive unit and not overrun the sidebearings of the glyph they modify. This can be problematic for narrow characters like the i, and can be spaced a bit tighter for such cases. (An f-ï ligature, anyone?)

Uppercase U with umlaut, o with umlaut, lowercase i, and lowercase i with umlaut

O! Ring!

It’s a circle!
The ring ( ˚ ) is higher and smaller than the degree symbol ( ° ), which is also just a circle.

The ring deosn’t have to be a strainght up boring circle, though. It can be dressed up a bit with weight, texture, and contrast in keeping with the rest of the typeface, similar to the masculine ordinal ( º ). It’s not yet the norm, but it makes sense, and more type designers are choosing this route.

Visual weight is super important. The thickness of the ring doesn’t necessarily relate to any other stroke or thikness in the font, it’s all in the eye. Adjust the thickness of the stroke until it has good color balance with the rest of the typeface.

Uppercase A with ring, u with ring, and degree symbol for comparison

Happy Little Breve

The breve ( ˘ ) is like a little smile above the character. It’s not exactly a half circle, but actually wider like a half oval. The curve needs to be wider to avoid confusion with the caron at small sizes. It needs to read “curve,” while caron should say “angle.”

The width of the breve should be similar to the macron or caron. The height also compares with the height of the caron.

Upper- and lowercase E with breve; comparison of breve accent to ring diacritic, caron, and macron.

Poker–Faced Macron

The macron ( ¯ ) is just a horizontal line. It should align vertically relative to the umlaut. The thickness can be comparable to the typeface’s horizontal strokes, however it’s more important to check for color and visual harmony with other marks and glyphs.

The length of the macron compares with that of the caron.

Image of upper- and lowercase A with macron, compared to uppercase U with umlaut and lowercase o with umlaut

Up Next

In Part 3 of this series I’ll cover marks that appear below the letter, including the cedilla, ogonek, and comma. I’ll also throw in the tilde and slash, because they’re the only ones left at this point, and I said I’d make this a 3 part series.

  • Part 1: ´ ˝ ` ˆ ˇ
  • Part 2: ˙ ¨ ˚ ˘ ¯
  • Part 3:  ̦ ¸ ˛ ˜   ̷
2018-06-07T12:55:00+00:00June 6th, 2018|Categories: How, Type|Tags: , , , |