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Why sometimes I find Helvetica with the letter "a" with the right leg straight and other times I find it with the right leg turned to the right:

  • Letter "a" with right leg straight:

letter "a" with right leg straight

  • Letter "a" with right leg turned to the right:

letter "a" with right leg turned to the right

20

The right leg is reduced for thicker weights, eg. bolds and blacks, probably as optical corrections. Basicly, the thicker the weight, the smaller the leg. Myfonts offers a live preview where you type in your own text and they set this up in all the weights, so you can easily see the difference.

Regular vs. black below (blue), then it gets proper straight for the Textbook weights (pink).

enter image description here

  • The bottom tail on the a helps visually balance out its top tail so it doesn't look too much like everything is emphasised toward the left, but this becomes less necessary at heavier weights where the verticals are more emphasised making the right side a little bit more emphasised anyway. – thomasrutter Oct 6 '17 at 5:43

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