top of page
  • Writer's pictureRaphaël Freeman

5. Who or What is More Superior?

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

This is the fifth of a 10-part series of the Ten Keys to Seamless Typesetting.

In our last installment we talked about the importance of using true small caps rather than faux small caps in order to keep the colour of the page consistent.

The same is true when using superscripts or subscripts. A carefully designed typeface that is suitable for setting text, not only will have crafted small caps, but also a full set of figures, ranging, titling, proportional, tabular, but also superior, upper fractions, inferior and lower fractions.

Yep that’s 8 different variants for each number!

image of 8 variants of the number 1

Why do we need so many variations of one figure?

Text figures

So we covered the first four variations in our first installment very extensively. So what about the next four?


Before the advent of OpenType fonts, we were very limited with which fractions we had in the font, usually, if we were lucky, only having the ½, ¼, ¾. However, with OpenType and appropriate software such as Adobe InDesign, we can create any combination of fraction as you can see below.

Note how the weight of the numbers in the fraction is such that the colour of the line is preserved just like when we use true small caps. So the numerator and the denominator are the next two.

Superscript and Subscript

The final two are of course for superscript and subscript. If we want to represent water as H2O like in the image, we need to have the same numbers used in the fractions but positioned accordingly.

Of course when setting footnote and/or endnote references, we also use superscript so we need a set of numbers that is robust and does not feel anaemic on the page.

These properly-formed superscripts are often known as superiors and the term inferiors is used for subscripts. It’s important to note that we don’t use old-style numbers when setting superiors and inferiors.


If you have a manuscript that you wish to be typeset seamlessly with superiors and inferiors or lots of fractions, then contact us for a no-obligation discussion by clicking here.

Looking forward to your comments below!

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page