Numerals

It’s been too long! But today, we will be talking about numerals and the two different types of numerals.  The two types are called by many different names, but most commonly known as Lining and Old-Style numerals.

Lining Numerals

Lining numerals, also known as tabular, ranging, or uppercase numerals (figures) are the typical numerals we see on a regular basis. These numerals are the same proportions as uppercase characters and share the same widths across the numbers. Lining numerals get their secondary name, tabular numerals, due to their use in spreadsheets and other mathematical purposes.

Lining numerals, function the best when utilizing them in a tabular nature. Adding numbers, spreadsheets, and display numbers (such as addresses, licence plates, or any use in which numbers appear by themselves). Below there are both lining numbers and old-style numerals in two different typefaces. The widths of the lining numerals are uniform and play nicely with each other in a table layout. However, when old-style figures are used, there is an apparent breakdown in readability. Ascenders and descenders overlap, widths are nonuniform and due to their descenders, the eye has trouble following the progression of numbers.

tab-vs-oldnumerals

Old-Style Numerals

After examining the pros of Lining numerals versus old-style, you may be wondering why old-style numerals even exist. Old-style figures are also known by another name, lowercase figures. Where lining numerals fail; old-style thrive — body copy. Lining numerals (also called uppercase) look overbearing in copy just as all CAPITALS LOOK UNSIGHTLY IN PARAGRAPHS OF TEXT. The fix is using old-style figures. Dates, numbers, any use for numbers in a body of copy should be set in old-style numerals. Below is an example of copy where in one paragraph lining numerals are used and the other, old-style.

oldstyle

In the first paragraph, lining or uppercase figures are used and the numerals appear quite large. However, in the second paragraph old-style or lowercase figures are used and blend well with the copy. Just like using words set in all capital letters in body copy, using tabular numerals is a big no-no.

What’s the Point?

Use lining numerals when using all numbers or capital letters and use old-style numerals in body copy

  • Numerals are also called figures
  • Lining Numerals are also called Tabular and Uppercase numerals (or figures)
  • Old-style Numerals are also called Lowercase and Proportional numerals (or figures)
  • Use Lining numerals for spreadsheets and when they are used by themselves.
  • Use Old-style numerals in body copy

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