Semi bold, Semibold, Semi-bold, Semi-Bold, or SemiBold?

What’s the best (or most established) practice for English-language style names: Semi bold, Semibold, Semi-boldSemi-Bold, or SemiBold? Likewise for Extra wide, Ultra condensed, Back slanted, etc. (Context: Adding typographic terminology to Unicode CLDR, see this discussion. But this question here is specific to English, hence the separate post; hope that’s OK).


  • Make that two.
  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 210
    edited February 2018
    FontCreator uses the hyphenated forms: Semi-bold, Extra-bold, etc. 

    Serif PagePlus strips the hyphens when displaying the style names in the Character Format dialogue.

  • Forms with camel case aren't normal in English outside of programming and Apple Marketing, so I’d definitely avoid SemiBold.

    I personally find forms with a detached prefix awkward, so I much prefer Semibold/Demibold to either Semi-Bold or Semi Bold.

    Technically, ‘extra’ should be written as a separate word since it is the adjectival rather than the prefix form being used, so ‘Extra Condensed’ rather than ‘Extracondensed’, though for some strange reason I prefer ‘Extrabold’ to ‘Extra Bold’ (but I prefer ‘Extra Black’ over ‘Extrablack’).

    I don’t have strong intuitions regarding ‘Ultra-’ Both ‘Ultracondensed’ and ‘Ultra Condensed’ seem fine to me.

    I’m just speculating here, but I suspect that forms like Semi Bold might have their origins in early Mac postscript type-1 file naming conventions which always used the first 5 letters of the first word in the family name and the first 3 letters of of all subsequent words. For fonts with both a semibold and a semicondensed, you wouldn’t want to end up with file names like ‘HelveSem’ which would be ambiguous.

  • FontCreator uses the hyphenated forms: Semi-bold, Extra-bold, etc.

    Those weight values and descriptions come from the OpenType specification. In FontCreator you can set the subfamily name as located on the Extended tab.

    Most fonts seems to use Semibold:

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,318
    edited February 2018
    I looked at a type catalog from around 1980 and it seems like the convention back then was to use either Semi Bold or Semi-Bold (or even just Demi, which ITC did).

    I don't know when it started, but I think Semibold has become the most common way to do it.

    I prefer it because it saves a character in the name, compared to Semi Bold or Semi-Bold, and I don't like how camel case looks in typeface names.

    It doesn't bother me that the convention used to be separate or hyphenated words. This kind of thing happens from time to time in English. It's not hard to think of examples that have happened during my lifetime.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,103
    edited February 2018
    I wrote a long reply with an emoji at the end of the first sentence and the forum dropped my post after that emoji. Bah. I will try to make time to rewrite it. 

    Long story short, GF uses SemiBold as hyphens are separating family and style, spaces separate weight width slope.
  • I downloaded a couple of font families from GF, and discovered Exo 2 uses a different approach:

  • The general trend in U.S. editing has moved toward solid setting (that is, no hyphens) and lowercase, especially with terms that are repeated often within a document or a class of literature. Moreover, I would argue that a term like “semibold” is an idea of its own, not something directly dependent on “bold, ” as evidenced by the fact that it invariably precedes bold on the menu.

    Type terminology is now familiar to more people than ever before, so it was inevitable that the orthography of its terminology would become a candidate for compression. The medial cap style that Dave Crossland says is used by Google Fonts seems to me an example of an already tired, overused branding style than of straightforward usage, though it does have a history that goes back to at least the 1950s and 1960s (CinemaScope, AstroTurf).

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,103
    Although I agree that semibold is a weight concept in itself, I find that in larger fonts with lots of weight variants using camel case consistently aids selection in font menus by highlighting what I think of as the weight group (Light or Bold) within names with adjectives: ExtraLight, SemiLight, etc..

    Apart from requiring an extra character and taking up more space, separating the weight names out could potentially be ambiguous. Is Fubar Ultra Light, the ultra-light member of the Fubar family, or the light member of the Fubar Ultra family?
  • I think the 11 "Agree" responses to Chris Lozos (and no "Disagree") speak to a strong majority view on this.
  • I downloaded a couple of font families from GF, and discovered Exo 2 uses a different approach
    With over 800 families, not everything complies with the standards I've defined today, but slowly we are moving towards that with font bakery.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 2,020
    edited February 2018
    Established, shmestablished — I use "Demi". A semi is for Interstate 5.
    the forum dropped my post after that emoji.
    Now that is a standard I could get behind.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,103
    Both demi and semi originally implied half, but that meaning seems to me to cling more to demi; ergo, Demibold suggests to me a weight mathematically, in some sense, halfway between Regular and Bold.

    Of course, this makes me imagine a family that contains both Demibold and Semibold.
  • @John Hudson "Demi" doesn't have to be mathematical; a demitasse isn't exactly half of some other drink portion. That said "demi" does seem to have more of a quantitative bent than "semi", which in common parlance just means partial, or even quasi.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    Demibold suggests to me a weight mathematically, in some sense, halfway between Regular and Bold.
    And the Hemidemisemibold style would be 1/8th as bold as plain ol’ Bold. ;-)
  •  :D 
  • According to Font Naming Issues. Adobe PostScript Technical Note #5088:

    The PostScript Language FontName

    The FontName generally consists of a family name (specifically, the one used for FamilyName), followed by a hyphen [my emphasis] and style attributes in the same order as in the FullName. For compatibility with the earliest versions of PostScript interpreters and with the file systems in some operating systems, Adobe limits the number of characters in the FontName to 29 characters. As with any PostScript language name, a valid FontName must not contain spaces, and may only use characters from the standard ASCII character set. If abbreviations are necessary to meet the 29 character limit, the abbreviations should be used for the entire family. In some cases, some additional characters may be included after the family name and before the hyphen, such as a Vendor ID (see section 2.4) or a language label such as Greek or Cyrillic.

    FontName examples:
    (but regular weight is: GaramondBE-Condensed; BE specifies that it is from the Berthold Library)
    So I guess that eliminates, if you want consistency in the naming scheme, the solutions Semi-bold and Semi-Bold.

  • ;-)
  • According to Font Naming Issues. Adobe PostScript Technical Note #5088:

    Note that that applies only to the PostScript name, which isn't the name which normally appears in font menus.

  • I assumed he was joking.
  • No, I wasn't joking. The remaining of the quote:

    As mentioned above, the FontName is usually the name by which a font is known to the PostScript language interpreter. In addition, some applications in MS-DOS or Unix environments use this name to embed as a platform independent font reference in the application document. The FontName is also a good candidate for use in font menus customized by an application, and is used by Adobe Type Reunion software to create font menus on the Macintosh

    Of course, all this is very old, but I don't see the reason to name a font "Something Semi-Bold" when it's Postscript name will be "Something-SemiBold", it's unnecessary confusion.

  • André G. IsaakAndré G. Isaak Posts: 536
    edited February 2018
    I don't see why there would be confusion if the internal name (which the user doesn't normally see) doesn't match the name visible to users. If I want to name my two new fonts 'Wade-Giles Super Bold' and Wade-Giles Super-Duper Bold" I don't see why the fact that the postscript names would be WadeGiles-SuperBold and WadeGiles-SuperDuperBold should prevent me from doing this.

    By the same reasoning we shouldn’t use spaces in font names which would lead to all sorts of ugly CamelCase in menus.
  • I think, in honour of this thread, I will name my next two-style font family Camel dromeDary and Camel bActriAn.
  • I think, in honour of this thread, I will name my next two-style font family Camel dromeDary and Camel bActriAn.
    Enjoy yourself.
Sign In or Register to comment.