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Ligature

Synonyms: underscore, low line, low dash

Ligature takes place when two or more graphemes or letters make a combination as one symbol, as in the English character “æ” that merges letters “a” and “e”.

 

Typography is an astonishing art with lots of useful features that can also help to build a great interface design and make it advanced usability-wise. Compared to printed typography, web typefaces are a lot less detailed, but the ligatures are here to bring in some diversity to your text. 

Historical Tips

It is believed that ligatures were created by merchants who needed a way to speed up the written communication process. They realized that conjoined letters and abbreviations make the working process with long forms more convenient.

 

Ligatures were used widely until the start of Apple II production in 1977. Early digital software wasn’t able to support the ligatures in typefaces so they were excluded.

 

The popularity of ligatures increased again in the last 20 years because of the interest for creative typesetting systems.

 

Ligatures Today

Modern ligatures are divided into three groups which are:
 

  1. Standard ligatures that are necessary to make the font to display correctly.
  2. Contextual ligatures that are used to create a certain image.
  3. Historical ligatures that are being implemented to give the text a vintage print look.
     

One of the most common ligature examples is ampersand (&) that was developed from the combination of handwritten latin letters “e” and “t” (“et” means “and” in Latin). German letter ß (Eszett) is an official letter in German and Austrian alphabets, but was basically created after the connection of "long s and z" (ſʒ). Armenian, scandinavian, cyrillic, chinese and japanese languages also have some ligature examples.

 

Digital fonts cannot have physical collisions, but some visual overlaps are still possible. In this case there are some hacks on how to put the ligatures into your text manually:
 

  • You may try to insert the ligatures from a character palette in your editor.
  • If using HTML, you may enter the escape codes for the ligature glyphs.
  • If your operating system or browser supports Unicode, you can use certain code to insert the ligatures within installed Unicode fonts.
  • You can also try to use the kerning to adjust the distance between letters and create the ligatures where needed.

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