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Ascenders And Descenders


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14 replies to this topic

#1 dickydotcom

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 09:08

I do a lot of note taking in interviews and use a standard lined A4 pad.
I would just like to know if others have any way of making sure that ascenders on a line don't get muddled with descenders from the line above.

Dick D

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#2 stefanv

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 12:03

Write in a size suitable for the line spacing of the paper.

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#3 brunico

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 13:10

  • Plain paper. Don't be boxed in by rules. Look at the line spacing and x-height relationship in a well-typeset book, and you'll see it's more generous than what most ruled notepads afford to most people's handwriting. More generous line spacing tends to be more readable, too, even in type. Use a guide sheet if you feel the need.
  • Rule your own paper.
  • Find some way of joining an ascender to a descender in the line above - helps if they curve and you can do swashes and curlicues.


#4 jbb

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 14:25

This won't be at all helpful but I like my ascenders and descenders to touch. :headsmack:

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#5 Mickey

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 14:42

Open up your field of vision to include the line above and the space ahead. Adjusting the inter-word spacing can usually avoid collisions, even when lines are a little close for comfort. Slowing down a bit and composing the page, not just the words, can pay other benefits, as well. Not only can it improve the look of the page, it will also present opportunities to refine your thoughts and word choices before committing them to the page.

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#6 andru

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 20:45

Great topic, thank you!

Open up your field of vision to include the line above and the space ahead. Adjusting the inter-word spacing can usually avoid collisions, even when lines are a little close for comfort. Slowing down a bit and composing the page, not just the words, can pay other benefits, as well. Not only can it improve the look of the page, it will also present opportunities to refine your thoughts and word choices before committing them to the page.

I so agree with this. If you don't want to go for wide line spacing, you'll probably continue to refine your skills for avoiding the conflicts. (I call it "jousting" when my ascenders and descenders come into conflict.)

Sometimes you can let it happen; if the ink is still wet on the line above, it will alter the shading which can be interesting. t-crosses do it, too. Sometimes a cross of one or two t's will intersect some descenders and ascenders, still wet, and that doesn't usually hinder legibility and can look neat.

jbb: do you notice changes in the shading due to the contact points in the style you illustrated?

Then there's the more florid styles like brunico alludes to; they seem to embrace these intersections, and place them in ways which heighten aesthetics without compromising legibility - seems liberating.

#7 jbb

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 22:12

jbb: do you notice changes in the shading due to the contact points in the style you illustrated?

The paper I used in the example above (some old graph paper I found on my desk) didn't show the shading. I get good line variation with my dip pen but the paper has to be right to really get the shading.

#8 Paddler

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 00:09

I just let the ascenders and descenders collide. It doesn't make the writing any less intelligible.
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#9 josiah

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 01:10

I tend to like a dark page: dense spacing, tall x-height, small interline distance. My Italic handwriting often demonstrates Italic's relationship to some of its blackletter cousins (and even tends sometimes to be a Batârde rather than a true Italic). My ascenders and descenders often touch, and with a little care, I can make them dance rather than fight. If you have a particularly artistic eye (caution, kids, don't do this at home!), you can even turn your ascenders and descenders into flourishes that cross into the above and below lines, and even play with the other words on the page.

But if you really don't want them to touch, the advice above is sound: wider interline spacing, and/or allow flexibility of your interword spacing so that you're better able to plan where your ascenders and descenders will fall. Writing systems with short x-heights tend to have generous interline spacing, even so that the ascenders and descenders are far away from one another. This can be a very elegant look for a page!

#10 stefanv

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:23

I just let the ascenders and descenders collide. It doesn't make the writing any less intelligible.


No, but it might make it less legible. :)

Edited by stefanv, 16 September 2012 - 11:57.

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#11 Mike 59

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 08:42

Hi, I can just about remember being at school, where we used ruled exercise books, as nearly all did, and I know some people used to write on a ruler, so that there were no descenders at all.
Then, I guess, they went along the line and added them in afterwards. Not sure I could write like that !

#12 bogiesan

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 12:50

I do a lot of note taking in interviews and use a standard lined A4 pad.
I would just like to know if others have any way of making sure that ascenders on a line don't get muddled with descenders from the line above.
Dick D


I use a video camera and a good microphone, attached to the interviewee, to make sure I have good notes that are not only accurate, they are irrefutable.

Back when I was doing a lot of manual notetaking, all attempts to keep up with the lecturer or interviewee were silly if I couldn't read my notes. So, on the advice of a girlfriend with whom I was sharing notes in a study group and who couldn't read my notes either, I took a professionally developed notetaking class. I learned how to abbreviate without deleting content or altering tone, we studied and practiced hands that promoted quick strokes and I used a Papermate Flair felt tip for its effortless line. More than anything else, though, the woman who taught that class gave everyone in the class permission waste paper, turn the page to change topic, turn the page for a new question, and double space.

I have forgotten most of those techniques. My hand became illegible as I tried to write smaller and smaller with finer tips on balls and gels and pencils. I editorialize now when taking notes without regard to content. Since discovering the fun of fountain pens, I have dramatically improved my hand and developed two or three variations. The one thing I retained from that class was an aversion to trying to save paper. I only use one side of the leaves in my journals, I double-space when I feel like it and I doodle ceaselessly.
I ride a recumbent, I play go, I use Macintosh so of course I use a fountain pen.

#13 kenfraser

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 14:12

I do a lot of note taking in interviews and use a standard lined A4 pad.
I would just like to know if others have any way of making sure that ascenders on a line don't get muddled with descenders from the line above.
Dick D

On a lined pad, just leave every second line, blank. This line then becomes the limit for descenders from above and ascenders from below.

Ken

Edited by caliken, 22 September 2012 - 14:12.


#14 HDoug

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 20:22

...
But if you really don't want them to touch, the advice above is sound: wider interline spacing, and/or allow flexibility of your interword spacing so that you're better able to plan where your ascenders and descenders will fall. Writing systems with short x-heights tend to have generous interline spacing, even so that the ascenders and descenders are far away from one another. This can be a very elegant look for a page!


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#15 Uncle Bulgaria

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Posted 09 October 2013 - 17:04

[Replying to an old thread, I know, but it's a topic I'm fussing over at the moment (e.g. here).]

 

On a lined pad, just leave every second line, blank. This line then becomes the limit for descenders from above and ascenders from below.

 

This raises an interesting (to me anyway) point.

 

My growing understanding is that in typical italic, the ascent:x:descent ratios should be 1:1:1. In other words, each of the x-height, the ascender, and the descender should occupy 1/3rd of the distance between writing baselines[1].

 

OK, so far so good. When using a typical modern ruled notebook for everyday writing, make your x-height 1/3rd of your inter-rule spacing and you're fine.

 

The problem is that your typical modern ruled notebook -- Rhodia, Moleskine, etc -- is not particularly friendly to that approach. Take the Moleskine, for example, commonly ruled at 6.35mm. Let's assume that they have been designed with the assumption that the typical user will write on every line. (That's an important assumption -- see later.) With an inter-rule spacing of 6.35mm, that implies an x-height of about 2.1mm. That's small if you care about your writing. It takes some skill to keep that consistent, not to mention a nib of no more than about 0.5mm, maybe narrower.

 

Now of course the normal human (i.e. not calligraphically-inclined lunatics like us) will probably get by simply by the following measures:

  1. Make the x-height, ascend, and descent each be half the inter-rule spacing. That's almost 50% more space to play with than the 2.1mm needed to maintain a 1:1:1 ratio
  2. Make the cap height equal to the inter-rule spacing -- i.e. same as an ascendered letter 
  3. To h*ll with ascender/descender collisions

To the more calligraphically minded though, that's not acceptable. We care enough about letter shape that we don't want to be forced into a 2.1mm x-height, nor into a sub 0.5mm nib. The obvious solution to that would be simple: USE WIDER RULING. Instead of Moleskine's 6.35mm, a 12.7mm would be much more useful. Of course that's exactly what you, Ken, are approximating with your "leave every second line blank" suggestion. But it immediately raises the question, "why should we have to?" That "every second line left blank" is completely redundant. It doesn't correspond to the x-height, cap height, or even t-height. It could do that if we left every second *and third* line blank, but then you run into the aesthetic problem of lines being too short compared with inter-line spacing. Leaving every second line blank is a sign that we're working with the wrong tools for the job. 

 

I have a two-part conclusion to this rambling.

 

First, remember my earlier assumption, that the designers of the more popular ruled notebooks are working under the assumption that the typical user will write on every line. That's the kindest way of looking at it. An alternative is that the designers of the more popular ruled notebooks don't have a clue what they're doing. 

 

Second, Brunico is absolutely right. Plain paper is the way to go. Choose how you want to write, maybe print your own guides for under the page while learning, and then don't let notebook ruling mess with your head!  :)

 

UB

 

 

[1]  That of course ignores any 1 or 2 nib spacing one might want to leave *between* the bottom of one line's descenders and the top of ascenders from the next line, but for everyday writing ascenders and descenders that merely *touch* are perhaps acceptable. It's probably *overlapping/colliding* ascenders and descenders we want to avoid.








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