Note: These terms are in reference to Copperplate script, which may not apply to other calligraphic scripts.
More terms, definitions, and photos coming soon!
ascender – The upper stem of the lowercase letters b, d, f, h, k, and l.
ascender loop – An upper stem of a lowercase letter with a counter (sometimes called “ascending stem loop”).
burin – A steel pointed tool with a rounded handle used for engraving copperplates.
counter – Any fully or partially enclosed space within a letter.
crossbar – The horizontal stroke on a letter such as H and t.
descender – The lower stem of lowercase letters f, g, j, p, q, y, and z.
downstroke – A stroke that is drawn in a downward.
drill exercise – A deliberate practice of drawing the same stroke or sequence of strokes repeatedly to develop brain and muscle memory, and to practice drawing consistent strokes and letterforms.
ductus – The direction and grouping of strokes in which a letter is drawn.
hairline – A very thin stroke.
heft – Thickness of a shaded stroke.
ligature – The linking of two letters in a word by a hairline stroke.
majuscule – A capital letter.
minuscule – A lowercase letter.
nib – A nib is the sharp-pointed metal part of a dip pen that varies in shape, size, color, and flexibility. Nibs may be attached to a straight holder or an oblique holder.
pen – see nib.
pointed pen – see nib.
preparing a nib – During manufacturing, nibs are sealed with a clear protective coating that prevents it from rusting in storage. Preparing a nib means to remove this protective, water-repelling layer so that ink may adhere to the nib – which is important when using dip pens.
shade – Thick stroke (achieved by applying pressure to the nib on a downstroke).
slant – The angle at which the script is written (typically between 52-55 degrees from the horizon).
squared top/bottom – a clean, square-cut at the top and/or bottom end of a shaded stem.
stem – A vertical, shaded stroke that is typically the first shaded stroke of a letter.
tines – The two prongs of the nib that flex (split open) when pressure is applied to the tip, and relax (close) when pressure is released.
upstroke – A stroke drawn in an upward movement.
weight – The thickest or most shaded part of a stroke.