Part of learning calligraphy is understanding the language that goes with it. It may seem fairly straightforward, after all the result is just a bunch of letters but within each of those letters are descriptive words that help to explain the way those letters are formed.
In order to make the learning process a lot easier it would pay to understand the meaning of the following terms. Calligraphy books will use them and if you haven't come across them before you could get left floundering.
When starting to form your letters you should rule some lines as guidelines across the paper. These lines help to guide you in maintaining an even height for the letters. The lines have specific names.
Cap Line - The guideline that shows the height of a capital letter (majuscule).
Waist Line - This is the line that marks the top of a lower case letter (miniscule) such as an x.
Base Line - This is the bottom line on which the letters sit.
Ascender Line - This is the line that marks where an ascending letter will rise to.
The various parts of the letters themselves are given specific names to describe them. These terms may describe the type of letter that has been formed or a certain part of that letter.
Ascender - This is the part of the letter that rises above the waist line. Letters such as "b", "d" and "l" contain ascenders.
Descender - This is the part of the letter that falls below the base line. Letters such as "p" and "q" contain descenders.
Miniscule - Another name for lower case characters.
Majuscule - Another name for upper case, or capital, characters.
Serif - This is a small stroke that begins a letter. A serif is also used to end a letter or a part of a letter.
Branching Stroke - A branching stroke is the part of a letter that joins an arch to the downstroke of a letter, for example, the arch of the letter "h".
Cross Bar - This is the horizontal stroke that forms part of a letter, for example, in the letter "t".
Counter - This is the term given to the space inside a letter, for example, the middle bit of the letter "o".
An important part of calligraphy is the spacing of the letters, both the size of the letters, their width and how far apart they are set. There are terms to describe the sizing aspect of calligraphy.
Counter Space - The space inside of a letter.
Interletter Space - The space between letters.
Interword Space - The space left between words.
Interlinear Space - The space between lines of writing.
Slant - The slope of a letter with the ideal slant when writing calligraphy letters at 7 degrees from the vertical.
With these basic calligraphy terms some of the confusion when reading books will hopefully be removed. It may not result in an improvement in your calligraphy ability, although it will help to understand what someone means as they are trying to explain the construction of a letter. Now all you need to do is pick up a decent calligraphy set and get started on creating some beautiful writing.