Slashed zero with downstroke?

I've been looking into legibility issues and some such characters which quite easily can be made explicitly unmistakable. When looking at slashed zero variants there is a chance of replacing one confusable character with another by adding the slash or dot (found this to be an informative paper).

Is there a reason why slashed zeros are not more commonly drawn with a downstroke (like in this font, for example) and instead the variant with the slash is used that resembles above all else the slashed O and empty set / average sign? It seems to me ironic that a feature intended to reduce letter identification errors might actually increase them, so I was wondering if there is an equally problematic catch with the downstroke I am not aware of.


  • The modern slashed zero developed in an Anglo-American programming context in which confusability with Ø wasn't an issue. I do like that variant with NW–SE slash though.

    I say modern slashed zero, because there are manuscript slashed zero examples dating from the first century of introduction of the zero into Europe. See page 5:
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 292
    edited December 2016
    Since a slashed zero is a drastic way to avoid any confusion, I also greatly prefer the backslash (not "downstroke", please :-) form. Those Anglo-Americans should have been able to foresee that. Here is a nice list compiled by Studio Het Mes of fonts that feature a backslash zero.

    BTW that Bigelow piece is great but it's missing arguably the best general form of OS zero: weighted only on one side (with my preference for the left). See the one in Whittingham.
  • I don't like the idea of slashing the zero along the «wrong» diagonal; in a humanist typeface, it would have to look either wrong or very heavy. I prefer the dotted zero in my typefaces, e.g. in Cormorant:

    not "downstroke", please
    If anything, it's a bend sinister.  ;o)
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 292
    edited December 2016
    Heraldic terms always welcome!  :-)

    Concerning your point above, I would say maybe humanism doesn't have to be so shackled by one particular –not to mention obsolete– marking device...
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,007
    The dotted zero can easily be mistaken for 8 in many typefaces.
  • Or a Greek Θ.

  • Differentiating similar-looking characters is only important when there’s a realistic chance those characters might appear next to each other in a situation where the meaning isn’t already very clear by its surrounding. Not too many people are going to read "Illinois" in Helvetica and think the state is actually called "Liiinois" or "Iiiinois".

    I personally have never seen an predefined code to be copied or entered by someone* that might either contain Greek Θ or Ø, and thus the slashed 0 is usually perfectly fine. It differentiates it from the uppercase Latin O and that’s all that is needed in that situation. This might be a little less perfectly clear in Greece / countries using the slashed O in their language, but as mentioned by others, there are further considerations like pen logic that play a role, too.

    *which is imho when this kind of legibility is really important.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 292
    edited December 2016
    @Thierry Blancpain
    An "unrealistic chance" can creep up on you... Although it's rarely worth sacrificing too much style for a remote possibility of confusion, the question here is about how to best alter a regular zero for extreme cases. Why would a potentially confusable forward slash (or dot) be preferable to a non-confusable backslash? Pen logic? How many people complain about the diagonal of the conventional contrasty "Z"? Rather than being overly sensitive towards an imaginary marking device I'd rather be sensitive towards actually existing Greeks, Swedes, etc.

    BTW "all that's needed" generally leads to things like Arial...
  • I'm working on a technical style typeface where the O and zero are the same and I used a backslash. But it's not just the orientation of the slash that differs from the Ø. The Ø's slash goes all the way through the circle while the zero slash only goes through the counter.
  • That Whittingham example is interesting - I was wondering if the unmodulated zero (does it have an actual name?) would come up in this discussion, but this lopsided solution is new to me. That unmodulated zero though does speak to the necessity of such a distinction, even outside of programmers' terminals.

    I would agree that in contrast rich humanist faces the weight of the stroke in the reversed orientation might become too heavy - then again you could ask if a special version of zero does not do that either way?

    Good to see, however, that no obvious reason has been listed not to use this version of a slash zero in other cases, and that, in fact, it's not as uncommon as I suspected. Thanks for your input!
  • The classical contrastless zero is in fact an extreme "style-violating" case of differentiation (and I'm no fan of it). But I suspect it was more in service of people who had to set/distribute metal type by hand, as opposed to readers. To me when designers today use that form it smells like the rotting clothes of long-gone French royalty.
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