Your Word of the Day: Kerning

Kerning refers to the process of adjusting the space between letters in typesetting and graphic design.

The word originally comes from the French carne, meaning projecting angle or quill of a pen. In the days of manual typesetting, letters were placed on individual metal blocks known as glyphs. If a letter overlapped the following letter (e.g. a capital T before a capital A), the overlapping parts (the bars of the T), would protrude over the edge of the glyph, and these exposed parts of the letter were known as kerns.

You might not think kerning is important, especially because most digital text is automatically kerned for your pleasure. Here’s a nice example from Wikipedia of the benefits of kerning:

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That isn’t Typing at all – it’s Writing!

At the moment, I’m reading the novel Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. (I’m aware that this is the second post in a row about what I’m reading: I do like to read, and I feel there’s a future post about a link between English teaching and reading) Yesterday, I was struck by the following passage (context: the book was published in 1988, and the narrator is writing about his first experience using a word processor, referred to as he/him):

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