Comics Grammar and Tradition

Chris Higgins

Nate Piekos designs fonts for comics. During his career "lettering" comics (writing and typesetting the dialogue and other text), Piekos has synthesized a set of rules and conventions of the trade. In his new article Comics Grammar & Tradition, Piekos shares what he's learned. Here are a few snippets:

Burst Balloons are used when someone is screaming their dialogue. They tend to be more irregular and chaotic than the radio balloon, perhaps with a heavier stroke. Burst balloons typically aren't italicized, but are often bold with certain words enlarged or underlined for even more emphasis. A less punchy variation on the burst balloon is a regular balloon with a small burst where the tail meets the balloon.

DOUBLE DASHThere is no Em or En dash in comics. It's always a double dash and it's only used when a character's speech is interrupted. The double dash and the ellipsis are often mistakenly thought to be interchangeable. That's not the case in comics, even though it's rife in comic scripts. For the record, there are only TWO dashes in a double dash. It sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised.

Read the rest to learn the surprisingly complex rules of comic book lettering! See also: Scott McCloud on Understanding Comics (video) and Scott McCloud on The Sound of Young America (excellent radio interview).

(Via Daring Fireball.)