I recently discovered a curious feature in a font called Raleway. Some of the glyphs for decimal digits ( 0 - 9 ) are placed above or below the baseline. Numbers displayed using the font seem to be wavy rather than straight. I'm wondering if this is done to make the digits easier to distinguish from each other. Is that the only reason or are there other reasons behind diverting the digit glyphs from baseline? What is the name of this feature?


1 Answer 1


They are called old style numerals. Typically a good open type font has an option to choose between old style or not. At the same time you can choose between tabular options too. But not all fonts make all combinations so like in the case of the Raleway i have installed they are has no tabular alternates.

enter image description here

Image 1: Oldstyle vs Lining. Note: Propotional and tabular are the same for Raleway Medium

But if we take a more complete font like Myriad Pro we get a better picture of what the tabular lining fonts do. They make the numbers and in certain cases punctuation, monospaced so that they line up.

enter image description here

Image 2: Myriad Pro actually has a tabular lining number variant too.

In adobe applications you can find this under open type settings window of the font.

  • Thank you for answering! Don't see a big difference between tabular and proportional spacing in the example image. Perhaps Raleway doesn't support tabular spacing.
    – cyberixae
    Jul 13, 2023 at 10:24
  • The example image would be slightly clearer if you had both "proportional" examples on the first line and both "tabular" examples on the second line. That way the examples would form a kind of table with columns ( "Lining" vs "Oldstyle" ) and rows ( "Proprtional" vs "Tabular" ).
    – cyberixae
    Jul 13, 2023 at 10:30
  • @cyberixae like i said not all fonts implement all functions so tabular and lining are the same in both cases in Raleway font as it does not have tabular alternates. The order is implementation order illustrator, so semi random i thought of that but didn't bother after all i answered in under 20 minutes, with pictures and all. Mainly this is fine because it shows that tabular and proportional are the same. Different fonts behave differently
    – joojaa
    Jul 13, 2023 at 10:32
  • @cyberixae better now?
    – joojaa
    Jul 13, 2023 at 10:52
  • 2
    Think of oldstyle as lowercase for numbers. Some lowercase has ascenders, some have descenders. Same with numerals for oldstyle. Jul 14, 2023 at 3:12

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