Font guidelines for sitelen pona

From sona pona, the Toki Pona wiki

There are many fonts for sitelen pona, more are getting created and some old ones are getting improved. This article seeks to collect the ideal state of a font, recommendations that emerged from dealing with many fonts, and guidelines for anyone who wants to make a "good" font.

The less technical advice may also be of use for people who want to improve their handwriting.

Technically complete[edit | edit source]

When a font is considered complete is going to differ for different font creators and font users. Generally speaking, though, a font might be considered usable by the majority of users when it has the following technical features:

  • All the glyphs found in Toki Pona: The Language of Good (pu) should be added.
  • Any character that is found in UCSUR should be assigned the codepoint according to UCSUR.
  • In fact, beyond pu, having a glyph for each "ideograph" in UCSUR would be good.
  • Also add glyphs for cartouche start, cartouche end, cartouche extension lines, extended pi start, expanded character extension line, cartouche interpunct, and cartouche colon in the corresponding UCSUR codepoint.
  • Add a functionality that cartouches and extended pi work with any sitelen pona character without any gaps between the lines. This can be achieved either by making new glyphs where each sitelen pona character is combined with extension lines, or by creating zero-width extension and cartouche lines that can be used after a word to reach under another character.
  • Ideally, cartouches and extended pi should work without adding a control character for the lines each time—instead, through contextual ligatures, lines get filled automatically between a start and end character.
  • For increased accessibility, add ligatures for any sitelen pona character, as well as for any functionality the font supports. "Ligatures" (through "lookup tables") make it so a text in ASCII will get substituted with sitelen pona characters, meaning that toki typed out in sitelen Lasina automatically becomes toki in the font.

Beyond that, the following features require a large amount of work, so it tends not to be seen as a marker of completion:

  • Create smaller versions of glyphs for scaled and stacked glyph combinations.
  • Get stacked and scaled glyph combinations to work. While this may be achievable by merging characters, this would end in a big font file and a lot of work. Instead, making components all align with each other is generally a better option. Consider which kinds of combinations work with which kinds of characters in the first place.

Some users also find the following features useful:

  • Japanese-style quotation marks. These are also used as glyphs for experimental quotative particles, te and to; these are what the ligatures should use.
  • An extended a character that connects to the extension line, forming a stretched glyph that is equivalent to sitelen Lasina "aaaaa"
  • Extended prepositions that connect to the extension line (most commonly tawa)

Glyphs[edit | edit source]

Generally, glyphs are more legible if they are monospaced, meaning that the width of each glyph should be the same, even if the drawing of the character doesn't occupy the whole space.

Common pitfalls[edit | edit source]

  • Up-arrow epiku is easy to confuse with directional ni.
  • Flipped-sin majuna is easy to mix up with sin or namako, and lotus majuna is prettier.
  • Thick-stem soko is easy to confuse with mama.
  • Monospaced fonts are generally more readable than proportional fonts, because it's faster to find the center of each glyph.
  • Making the circle massive in the pronouns (mi, sina, ona) and lape make them easier to confuse with each other.
  • Making glyphs fill up a square bounding box makes them harder to recognize by silhouette.
  • Making glyphs similar to jan Sonja's handwriting in pu generally makes them easier to recognize.
  • Adhering to the metaphors intended by pu glyphs, when possible, helps recognizability.

Flexible glyphs[edit | edit source]

Many characters in sitelen pona are widely considered to not be static and aren't supposed to be drawn the same way every time.

  • jaki: any scribble, usually with overlaps, such as jaki1 jaki2 jaki3 jaki4 jaki5 jaki6 jaki7 jaki8 jaki9 jaki10 jaki11
  • ko: any blobby unshapely form, such as ko1 ko2 ko3 ko4 ko5 ko6
  • ni: many use ni to point to the part ni is referencing (up, down, right, or other directions, instead of the standard downwards arrow) like so: ni> ni< ni^ niv
  • ni: often the line is extended if it's been rotated to the left or right, such as ni>(--)
  • lete, kin: rotation, and maybe even exact number of intersecting lines, aren't important
  • linja, kon, telo, pakala, mun: can be mirrored
  • soweli: the exact amount of legs might be less important
  • ku: the toki pona symbol can range from a simple dot to full-fidelity

Alternative glyphs[edit | edit source]

For various different reasons, people have made new glyphs of different characters. The Esperanto translation of pu, Tokipono: La lingvo de bono, includes drawings of these:

  • sewi: mirrored glyph of anpa (not very common, but listed by Toki Pona Dictionary—alternatively, it has been suggested elsewhere to use other religious symbols, with the possible downside of being less legible)
  • akesi: 2 pairs of legs instead of 3
  • namako: both sin with an extra line below, and a hot pepper with emanating lines above, are featured side-by-side
  • Additionally, 4 different drawings of jaki are included

Other common-ish variations include:

  • kala: adding 2 dots for eyes
  • epiku, kokosila, lanpan: although there is a more widely accepted version for all of these, their glyphs are relatively recent and have had more than one shape, so older versions are still in use