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I noticed today that when I type a word with the character pair fi in it, the f changes when the i is typed to have a longer top and the dot above the i is removed.

I was wondering if this occurrence has a name and, additionally, do fonts that support this functionality have a categorical name?

enter image description here

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  • FWIW, some fonts even have ffi and ff ligatures. – Angew Jul 14 '15 at 20:20
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    Incidentally, this is not the only visual difference between "fi" composed of isolated glyphs and the ligature - the cross of the f also flows smoothly into the top serif (if present) of the i in many fonts. – Random832 Jul 14 '15 at 21:43
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This is called ligature.

In writing and typography, a ligature occurs where two or more graphemes or letters are joined as a single glyph.

Many ligatures combine f with an adjacent letter. The most prominent example is fi (or f‌i, rendered with two normal letters). The tittle of the i in many typefaces collides with the hood of the f when placed beside each other in a word, and are combined into a single glyph with the tittle absorbed into the f.

fi as example for ligatures

  • Further reading: there is already a question on graphicdesign.stackexchange about when someone should use ligatures, where at least the accepted answer is worth reading.
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    It'd make your answer a lot better if you included an important bit or two from the resources you linked in the answer itself. We like answers to be fully self-sustaining :) – Zach Saucier Jul 15 '15 at 3:17
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    Thanks for your comment. That's why I posted it as a comment first, but I then was told to make it an answer ;) I will edit my answer later today. – Marvin Jul 15 '15 at 7:19
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    When you're editing, improve your link text. "Click here" is bad UX practice. – TRiG Jul 15 '15 at 9:48
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    Actually it is a Dotless I which is often used to make ligatures. – OldCurmudgeon Jul 15 '15 at 9:56
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    @OldCurmudgeon No, it’s not. Languages that make a distinction between dotted and dotless i must avoid this ligature, because the ligature combines the tittle with the top of the f, and thus makes it impossible to say if the i is dotted or not. When they are two different letters, that is not acceptable, so the ligature cannot be used. From your own link, “Since [...] the ligatures make the ‘i’ dotless, such fonts [that have the ligature] are not appropriate for use in a Turkish setting.” – KRyan Jul 15 '15 at 12:07
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As mentioned, this is a ligature, and is one of many similar ligatures such as ffi, fl, ffl, Th, oe and ae.

If you're interested in this sort of detail within fonts (and within design, as a larger topic), I'd highly recommend the book Type Matters, by Jim Williams. It's an excellent reference manual for anyone interested in typography, and, if applied in daily writing, will greatly assist with readability and purveyance of message.

It's available on Amazon at the link above, or from good specialist bookstores.

  • Most books in print are available from all bookshops, though they may have to order them in. (They then send you a text message when your order arrives, so you can pick it up. Much handier than ordering online and getting a large parcel which won't fit through your letterbox.) – TRiG Jul 15 '15 at 15:04

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