06 December, 2012

Fancy Fonts (or not)

I'm bored of Georgia. Not the country or the American state, but the font. For the last two or three years I've done all my writing in double-spaced Georgia 12-point and I'm beginning to get sick of it. I chose Georgia because it's clear  to read on paper, and also easy on the eye when looking at a screen. But several million key strokes later, I'm ready for a change.

Agents and editors hate fancy fonts. They don't want to read something that looks as if it was written in a child's handwriting - even if the narrator of the story is a child. They just want something clear, inoffensive and unremarkable. Times New Roman (modelled by this blog post, and very similar to Georgia) is ideal. In general, if you are submitting something on paper, you want a serif font. I'm no design expert but my understanding is that - like Times and Georgia - serif fonts are the ones with all the little flicks on the edges of the letters which makes them easier to read on paper. Sans serif fonts - without the flicks - are easier to read on screen (although I don't use them).

Arial, shown here, is a good example of a sans serif font (as is the most over-used and misused font in the world, Comic Sans).

So I need a new font. What would you recommend? There are loads of great fonts out there. My husband designed all our church stuff in Museo and since then we've noticed it's being used by all the cool kids nowadays. But a font used in designing stuff is different from a font used for pages of writing. I need another serif font that can be my new best friend for the next year or two - until I get bored again. 

In all probability I'll come crawling back to Georgia in a few months time (I feel guilty for telling you I'm sick of it - it's been a faithful friend to me!) and remember why I chose it in the first place. But for now, I need some fresh letters to stare at for hours on end. Wingdings do you think?

What's your default font for word documents? Why did you choose it?


19 comments:

  1. I always choose Calibri which is the one MSWord tends to set as default these days making it a very boring choice. But I quite like it and find it easy to read. The only problem is that it doesn't exist on older versions of word so if you send your doc to someone using Office 2003 then it randomly chooses another font in its place with some often strange results!

    I very rarely need to print out my word documents which, given your explanation above, might be why I've chosen a sans serif as my "go to" font.

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  2. I spent a while with garamond as my default. Now I live life in a land without serifs - but that is one of the perils of being a developer!

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  3. I guess I'm boring. I just set it to Times New Roman, cause that's what is recommended to send to agents.

    Maybe I should use something more fun. Spice it up a bit.

    I've always been partial to Arial for everyday stuff. And for fun I like script style/handwriting, but as long as it's legible. I've seen some that are too fancy.

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    1. TNR is a good font. I used to find it boring, but I've really come round to it in recent years. I may use it instead of Georgia. Georgia is another one often recommended for agents - it's essentially TNR but a little bigger!

      I'm not sure how much fun comes into it! I think it's mostly finding a font you can bear to look at day after day, word after word...

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  4. I know I should use sans serif on screen (this blog for example) but I just don't find them pretty! Whereas I quite like them as part of design.

    I only noticed recently that Calibri was the default font - I quite like it. I have used it occasionally recently when writing something for children. I hadn't realised it didn't exist before though - thanks for the warning!

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  5. I've found myself learning to love serif fonts again. An over use of TNR put me off them for years, but I'm starting to see the error of my ways!

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    1. and I think serif works fine on this blog... its still clear and easy to read.

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  6. I'm a fan of Bookman myself for body text. Or Bodoni perhaps.

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    1. I used to use Bookman Oldstyle! Never used Bodoni though - shall investigate!

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  7. TNR is quite dense because it was designed to fit a lot of words into a short line in a newspaper. Other serif fonts like Georgia, Palatino, etc are less dense and look better, I think. Calibri is also quite dense - again, it has narrow letters and fits a lot into the line.

    I agree that sans serif is better on screen. I am no longer convinced by the received wisdom that serif fonts are better on paper. I think it is partly a matter of what you are accustomed to. You sometimes see novels using a sans serif font and they can look ugly, but that may be because they have chosen an ugly font.
    At work we now use Verdana (sans serif) for our training manuals. We use it at 10 point which is quite big enough compared with 12 point TNR. Crucially, though, we use it with a bit of leading (extra space between the lines). We use 1.25 line spacing. (You just set your normal style in Word to use multiple line spacing in the paragraph dialog box, set that to 1.25 lines, and then never have to think about it again.) It is much more readable like that than single line spacing. One of the advantages of Verdana is that it is one of the core fonts that almost everybody has. If you use something less common, there is the danger that someone you send a Word file to won't see the look you have lovingly crafted because they don't have the font and their computer has substituted something else.
    We used to use Palatino, chosen as it seemed the most readable of the serif fonts we had available. When we switched to Verdana, we chose it again for its readability. Don't forget that readability depends on a combination of factors like font, point size, line spacing, line length and margin width. Now when I compare our old manuals to our new ones, the new ones look much fresher and more modern to me.

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    1. Verdana was the font I used before Georgia mostly. It's my go-to sans serif font because I'm not a huge fan of Arial. I kind of like the compactness of TNR after the bigger shapes of Georgia, but I take your point.

      I never use single-line spacing anymore. For most of my work I use double spacing, but for things like letters I use 1.15 - it just looks so much nicer. And I always use wide-ish (3cm) margins. When you look at text all day it's just easier on the eye (and I have my screen vertical so I can get a lot of text on it even when double spaced!)

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  8. I finally settled on Arial. I got bored with TNR. Verdana is good too. No science on my part though!

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    1. I think that's it - TNR is a nice font but it's easy to get bored of it somehow!

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  9. I'm using "Bell MT" at the moment... I find it appealing to the eye but not too difficult to read :) I thought I was the only one who got bored with fonts, but apparently not!

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    1. Well... we don't have a lot to play with as writers! Fonts are all we've got!

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  10. In the beginning there was TNR. God looked at it and said, 'Not child-friendly; let there be Comic Sans'. Several decades later even the child became more sophisticated, but also more precocious, so God despaired.'Take your pick,' he sighed, scattering Arial, Verdana, Georgia and Calibri to the undeserving.
    Personally, I quite like Courier, but that may be because I've recently been typing up some olde stuffe. Ceve

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    1. Writing for editors/magazines/submitting to agents and publishers etc. you never think about what the content of your writing is and match a font to it. That would drive them crazy - they pretty much only want TNR, Georgia or Arial, though most say "any clear font". I guess they fear people will choose fonts to try to make their writing more interesting, when it should speak for itself. Whereas at school we were actively encouraged to choose a font that looked like handwriting for a diary, or like illuminated letters for "historical" documents,and kids love that sort of thing!

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  11. I'm fickle when it comes to fonts. I usually go with the default sans serif font in word, which is [goes and checks] Calibri, but sometimes I'll stick with Cambria, Arial, or Times New Roman. Occasionally I'll go for Courier New, which I find good for proof-reading (it spaces everything out and seems to make error-spotting easier).

    When it came to picking a font for my self-pubbed book, I went through dozens of options before picking Plantagenet Cherokee. It doesn't look great on screen, but it prints very nicely and was just the look I wanted for the book's text. The headings and story titles are, apparently, "HGSHeiseiKakugothictaiW5", which I think you'll agree is a pretty snappy name for a font!

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    1. Gosh! I'd say I'll remember that for if I ever self-publish, but I'm pretty sure I've no chance of remembering it!

      I fell out of love with Courier, I'm not sure why. but I like both Cambria and Calibri.

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