Letterlike Symbols Part 3:
Ordinals and Numbers

In Part 2 I did the @, ©, ®, and ™ symbols. This post covers number related symbols: ordinals, superior figures, and the number or numero abbreviation (№).


Ordinal numbers define something’s place in a series, like first, second, third, fourth, etc. When abbreviated, the suffix of the ordinal (-st, -nd, -rd, -th) is placed after the correspnding number in the sequence: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.

In Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, and Italian the ordinal suffixes are -a for feminine and -o for masculine ordinals. It is common to have these ordinals (ª º) available as well-designed superior (superscript) letters coordinating with the typeface.

In the last post I went over the how trademark symbol (™) is always small and high. Ordinals, like the ™ symbol, align to the cap height, but sit smaller and higher than lowercase.

These aren’t shrunken letters, but letters drawn with the color of the text in mind. Regular sized letters that have been scaled down appear too light for the typeface. (See below right.) So these glyphs are drawn—in this case—with the same tool at the same scale as the rest of the glyphs.

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Superior Numerals

Common superior figures 1, 2, and 3 are also a standard. These are typically used for fractions as far as I can tell, and I can imagine they could be used for exponents and (very limited) footnotes as well.

The same design principles apply to these as they do to the ordinals.

While these are techincally superscript, I prefer to refer to them by their synonym of “superior” numerals because they are far less common and far better designed than automatically generated superscript numbers, which are scaled down figures lifted above the cap height.

The number or numero abbreviation № is a fun one. It can have a bit of personality, much like the ampersand. The only rules are that it be composed of an uppercase N and an ordinal-sized o. The line is optional, the placement of the o vertically is up to the designer, and sometimes people even have a little fun with the N.

I’ve opted to use an underline, and to align my o with the cap height.

Up Next

Part 4 of the Letterlike Symbol series will cover currency symbols.

  • Letterlike Symbols
    1. &
    2. @ © ® ™
    3. ª º ¹ ² ³ №
    4. $ ¢ £ € ¥ ¤
  • Punctuation
    1. § ¶ † ‡
    2. * # – – — _
    3. . , ; : ! ¡ ? ¿ ‽ … •
    4. ' ‘ ’ ‚ “ ” „ ′ ″ ‹ › « »
    5. / \ | ¦ ( ) [ ] { }
  • Mathematic symbols (to be determined)
  • Diacritics






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