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Letter Ambiguities, a Readability Conundrum

Certain Typefaces Have Similar Letter Shapes
From the BBC News website, 29 December 2013. The word that begins the title of the article is ‘ill’ with a capital i, i.e. Ill. The font is Arial, which as we are all told by those experts who know these things, is the most easy-to-read typeface ever invented. Capital I and lower-case l in Arial are of course easy to distinguish from each other, for the experts assure us they are.
But note . . .
The photo to the left is of the nameplate from a railway engine, and railway enthusiasts are of all sorts, including, it’s fair to say, a sprinkling of the slowish-witted (one has to be very careful here, but I think I can say that without final contradiction). Has anyone, from this range of abilities including the less able, said they find this difficult to read? I’ve searched on the web but can’t find any indication of anyone saying they do. In fact the nameplate doesn’t look ambiguous at all, does it? It says illustrious dunnit?
But hold your hand in front of the final eight letters and try and read just the first three. Eek! All those theories about sans-serif fonts being so much easier to read, dashed – veritably dashed!
I don’t know what typeface is used for the nameplate – it’s one of those high x-height sans-serif ones.
There are some comments about the letter i and the letter L on my Arial and Comic Sans page.
Nothing whatever to do with typefaces or readability, but on the topic of railway enthusiasts, my observations tell me there is a railway enthusiast ‘type’, at least in the UK. Not all people with an interest in railways necessarily conform to type, but a noticeable number do, and I found a website where certain people who do conform to it have kindly posed for the camera. The website is especially useful for those who might otherwise feel themselves alone and unloved in their study of the topic of Closed Railway Stations in the UK. That is to say, railway stations that are no longer open.
There’s a picture on that site’s front page where the people of pattern are posing. Isn’t it wonderful? One of my favourite pictures on the entire web.


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