The Twentieth Letter — T

The Phoenicians called the letter “taw” meaning “mark,” and it looked very close to the letter X, or in some cases a cross. When uneducated people came forth to close business deals, there were plenty of people that still didn’t know how to sign their names, and preferred making a mark.

The Greeks borrowed this font automatically, and called it “tau.” This font passed through Greek, Etruscan, and Rome typestyles without being changed up to the modern era.

Tau, or Taw, is also the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. One way to describe God was to refer to Alpha/Taw, later on, in the New Testament, Jesus used the phrase ” I am the Alpha Omega”, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.


On the surface the T appears to be a very simple letter. In a typeface like Helvetica or Avant Garde, it can be.

In many other typefaces, however, designers have shown us that there is plenty of room for artistic expression.

The T normally occupies about two-thirds of the em square, or about the same amount of space as the N or U. It’s crossbar can be symmetrical as in faces like Corvinus, or slightly longer on one side, found in calligraphic designs like Seagull. The ascender in the lowercase version is one of the more important ‘flags’ for readability.

With credit to Allen Haley,
Upper & Lower Case magazine, a typographic centered publication last published from 1970 to 1999.

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