In typography, the term for the variations in the design of a particular letter within the same typeface. Some typefaces have several versions of the same letter in the font to allow a greater variety of typographic expression. Specimen showings normally list all character variants with numbers for identification purposes. Multiple versions of the same character allow more creativity in display setting. The key to their use, however, is restraint—it is best to use as few as possible. Most alternate characters are swash versions: they over- or underhang adjacent characters with curve-like flourishes. Although effective, swash characters should be kept to a minimum.
Some alternate characters consist of combinations of capital letters, used to reduce excess space between some letter combinations in some fonts. When these characters are used, it is often necessary to reduce the space between other letters in the same word, to give the type a unified appearance.