Speaking of Fonts

Hi Writers,
As I mentioned in the previous posts, I’m switching fonts for my blog posts—a minor face lift you might say.

Fonts seem like a trite thing for writers to concern themselves with. But in the visually oriented magazine world, I’ve observed first-hand that how you present your work really can make a difference in terms of your reader’s experience with your writing.

I discovered early in my writing/editing career a cool trick. Whenever I was working closely with an editor (as a writer or a lower-level editor), I’d make a point of learning that editor’s preferred editing font. Usually it was a sans serif font, Arial or Verdana, 12 point, double-spaced. I worked under some tough editors who were quick with the red pen and I soon learned to give them exactly—or as close as I could get—what they wanted. And part of my method was delivering the manuscript to them in their preferred editing font.

This probably seems like a trivial matter in the big world of writing and publshing, but it really can help. I think it all comes down to respecting your reader.

Keep Writing,
Maria

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10 thoughts on “Speaking of Fonts

  1. Mary Fran Moehlman

    5/2/2008 5:21:54 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
    I was in the printing business for a while and then, as now (like it or not), serif fonts remain the easiest to read, whether on screen or in print. Studies confirming this used to exist somewhere, but I don’t remember where. That is especially true with screen fonts.

    As my eyesight gets a little worse, serif fonts win out every time, as long as they remain relatively simple (like the much maligned Times family). I have my preferences, of course, but give me a serif font every time for the body of the text and keep the complex serifs or the sans serifs for titles, headers, and so on.

    I teach creative writing and always instruct students to use 12 point Times New Roman for all mss since that will be available to most classmates (for a bit of writers workshop feedback from other writers) and to me (for critiquing and editing) regardless of how they are submitting — but especially by email.

    I am also a freelance editor, and I tell all clients the same thing.

    Like it or not, long live serif!!!

  2. Mary Fran Moehlman

    I was in the printing business for a while and then, as now (like it or not), serif fonts remain the easiest to read, whether on screen or in print. Studies confirming this used to exist somewhere, but I don’t remember where. That is especially true with screen fonts.

    As my eyesight gets a little worse, serif fonts win out every time, as long as they remain relatively simple (like the much maligned Times family). I have my preferences, of course, but give me a serif font every time for the body of the text and keep the complex serifs or the sans serifs for titles, headers, and so on.

    I teach creative writing and always instruct students to use 12 point Times New Roman for all mss since that will be available to most classmates (for a bit of writers workshop feedback from other writers) and to me (for critiquing and editing) regardless of how they are submitting — but especially by email.

    I am also a freelance editor, and I tell all clients the same thing.

    Like it or not, long live serif!!!

  3. Greg Korgeski

    RATS! (As Snoopy would have typed on his old Underdog typewriter.)

    I’d recently read a book by a high-status writer for novelists, who said that editors will know you’re a contemptible amateur if you aren’t using Courier 12, double-spaced. For the past six months or so I’ve forced myself to go Courier on everything. I set my default font in Scrivener (God’s gift to Mac-owning writers) to Courier 12. Set my brainstorming software (Tinderbox) to take notes in Courier 12. Set my MacJournal "writing" folders to Courier 12. I even started to dream in Courier 12!

    I guess this is a relief, but now I have to make choices. As you know, Maria, I obsess terribly over choices. Rats, rats, rats…..

    Greg

  4. Helen Gallagher

    Maria, that’s fontastic – you changed your font style at the same time as Microsoft. In Office 2007, they added some new fonts, and switched the default from the tired old Times New Roman to a new font. I wrote a blog post last week on the subject.

    from cclarity.blogspot.com:
    "If you have Microsoft Office 2007, you may have noticed they finally abandoned Times New Roman as the default font. The new default is a fresh-faced design called Calibri — I know it sounds like a new Chevy model, but it’s a nice looking font, much easier to read on screens than the old sad face of Times New Roman.

    Calibri is a sans-serif with soft rounded corners. It looks a little friendlier than fonts like Arial and Helvetica."

    With so much reading being done on-screen these days, Microsoft says Bill Gates listed "improving on-screen reading" as one of his top five priorities, according to a story, which, of course, I read online at Poynter.org.

  5. Ann

    Thanks for this information Maria. Now, let me see, where will I store this information so I can "remember" it 🙂

    In business these days it seems a lot of people use the Arial font which is plain and simple, which is what I have used in previous submissions.

  6. Maria Schneider

    Justin,
    No, that’s not bad info at all, it’s accepted wisdom in the editing realm. Many magazine editors now do much of their editing onscreen (I do). And some of this is just personal preference. The best advice is to always stick with clean, classic fonts. If you’re using a serif font go with Times. I know most book editor’s prefer Times–they still do much of their editing in print.

  7. Justin

    That’s interesting…

    I was taught in a class a few years back to stick to serif-fonts for printed text and sans-serif fonts for anything read on the screen. Supposedly had something to do with how the eye follows the text and the contrast/brightness of the monitors, etc. and eye strain.

    Was that bad info?

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