A descender is the portion of a letter that extends below the baseline of a font and forms its line, known as the descender line. Notes that possess descenders include L, J, P, Q, and Y, while K, V, and W also have descenders that don’t extend as deeply below their baseline as those listed earlier.
Descenders add dimension and personality to letters. They can also add visual interest to a text block; notes with descenders can add an elegant touch, while blocky ones without them may appear heavy and solid.
While most fonts include descenders, some do not. Display and headline fonts typically do not have descenders, as they can detract from the overall aesthetic of their design. When selecting fonts for body text, however, descenders often add readability while improving the general flow of the text.
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Publishing-wise, a descender refers to any letter that extends below the baseline of its font and rests on a line known as the descender line.
Descenders play an essential role in typesetting because they can alter the overall “look” of a page of text. For instance, all descenders on one page should have equal-length descenders to create an even and uniform appearance; on the other hand, having different-length descenders makes for more dynamic pages that look active and alive.
While descenders can add an aesthetic element to a page, they also provide functional value. In specific languages (such as French), it is customary to leave extra spacing after words that end with letters with descenders (such as p,q, or g). This helps prevent two lines of text from running together on one line.
Descenders can also add visual interest or emphasize certain words or phrases; for instance, designers may employ fonts with long descenders for headlines or small fonts with short descenders as footnotes.