Monthly Archives: March 2011

Type Considerations Multiply

Recently, during a lecture I delivered to a group of professional writers, I commented that, in addition to choosing a well-designed font, professional-looking typography is the sum of all the little details in type treatment. As an example, I mentioned using prime marks instead of quotation marks to indicate feet and inches and using a real multiplication sign instead of an x.

The puzzled looks and the multiple muddled voices murmuring “An x isn’t a multiplication sign?” told me that a lot of people don’t know the differences between these characters.

The photo (below) on the left shows how many people type multiplication signs and inch measurements, with an x and with quotation marks. The photo (below) on the right shows a real multiplication sign and double-prime marks indicating the inches.

Side by side 8 by 10 photos

The photo on the left uses an x and quotation marks. The photo on the right uses a multiplication sign and double-prime marks.

Notice that the real multiplication sign does not have serifs, sits above the baseline, and each of the arms and legs are congruent. To type a real multiplication sign in Windows applications, press Alt-0215. In HTML, type ×. Macintosh users, unfortunately, will need to select the multiplication sign from an application’s Character Palette or Glyphs Palette.

Notice that the double-prime marks don’t curl like quotation marks (sometimes called “Smart Quotes” or “typographers quotes”). Typing double-prime marks for inches is easy. In Windows applications, press Alt-Shift-″. Macintosh users, press Control-Shift-″. In HTML, type ″ (note capital P).

Typing prime marks for feet is just as easy. In Windows applications, press Alt-′. Macintosh users, press Control-′. In HTML, type ′ (note lowercase p).

And now you have something new to talk about at the next cocktail party.