Figure style for footnote references using OpenType fonts

Michael Gray's picture


I'm unusually for me working on a text with footnotes and I'd appreciate some guidance on correct styling of footnotes reference numbers, both within the text and the numbers next to the footnotes themselves.

Throughout I'm using "proportional old-style" numerals, and I'd normally aim to not mix old-style with the default figures. However the font (Hoftype Cala) I'm using has the option of "OpenType Superior/Superscript" (in InDesign character style under Basic Character Formats > Position drop down).

Should I use this setting for the superscript footnote references? Even though those aren't old-style figures? And should I do the same for the footnote number alongside the footnote itself?

thanks very much!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Yes. Unless the fonts contain old style superior/inferior figures (I don't know of any besides one of mine, but there sure are), go with the ones included in the font. These are better than scaling a set of old style figures to fit, because the weight will be all wrong. For the listing, lining figures are useful for marking the hierarchy: the listing numbers lining, the numbers in the notes old style.

riccard0's picture

Yes and yes. Then, as always, you should look how well they work in your setting, and fine-tune your style accordingly.
As an example, in one layout I did using Chaparral as text font, I used the less proper numerator Open Type option because it sits lower and I had a pretty tight leading. Also, I bumped up a bit its size.

Nick Shinn's picture

If you’re not using a size-specific (a.k.a “optically scaled” or “micro”) font for the footnotes, I would suggest that the numbers in the footnotes be full size, rather than superscript. Otherwise they may be too slight.

But really, if you’re going to the trouble of using proper superscript reference numbers, you should also be using a size-specific font for the footnotes themselves.

With Cala, which has no “opticals” per se, you could use Light for the main text, and Regular for the footnotes, with relative sizing &c. that produces the effect of similar weight.

Michael Gray's picture

Brilliant, thanks all for the – as ever – very helpful replies.

Andrew Dunning's picture

I would second the recommendation not to put the figures in the footnotes themselves in superscript: it's what you're looking for at the bottom of the page, so there's really no point in making them small. If you have the space, another nice detail is to have the footnote text indented slightly, as they do here (although they unfortunately superscript the reference in the footnote itself).

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