Monday, January 7, 2008

Best Face Forward

I'm a Times New Roman 12 pt gal-- mostly because my college professors and all my jobs (govt, university and private sector) used this as the standard.
I recently joined an online critique group where all the other members are courier people. I was tearing out my hair until I started converting their files to TNR, critiquing them, and then converting them back....
But I've noticed that font does affect how I perceive a piece of writing.
So, what font do you prefer? Do you even care? How about your colleagues? Do you discuss fonts when you talk about pet peeves? Or are you all so professional and focused on the actual writing that any font is fine?

Most of what we get is Times or Courier or Palatino or one of the other very normal-looking fonts, and I'm not particular about which one it is. (Though the house standard is Times.) Courier is my least favorite of those, but as long as it's legible, it's not fair to hold a font against a writer.
This is of course the time to point out that Zapf Chancery is not a legible typeface. Typeface is not the writer's chance to make her manuscript more beautiful. If your manuscript needs decoration, it's not good enough yet.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad for regular ol' Times, because I absolutely HATE Courier. If editors insisted on its use, I'd have to work in Times and convert it all to Courier just before printing. But since Courier is an old typewriter font (every letter is allotted equal space) and Times or similar fonts are what we're used to reading in published work, I fail to see why anybody'd prefer Courier. Just my opinion.

editdeb said...

I like Geneva--it's nice and clean, but it still has a little style. Arial is okay, but it's a bit boring. I prefer a sans serif when I'm editing. I hate Courier, but I hate to say it, I also hate TNR. Since many of my friends are editors and art directors, we do talk about fonts. When I start a new book, I always check to see if they supply the font info

ae said...

As someone who designed(s) a lot with type, and a type aficionado, be careful of sans serif type in large bodies of text. Sans serif type is used primarily for display, headline and otherwise larger attention grabbing text. It is extremely hard to read in a large body of text. Serifs break up letters so that the human eye can process words.

ae said...

This blog is sans serif, isn't it??? Hmmmmmmmm.

Well, somebody should re-write the those design/typography text books for blog designers. Hee Hee.

Colorado Writer said...


I'm writing a YA in alternating voices.

1. voice of the mc/1st person
2. voice of a 3rd omni
3. voice of 2nd mc/1st per. with journal entries.

Is it okay to use 3 different (plain fonts) in the manuscript, and if not, how do I show this change in POV every chapter?

Also, how do I describe the format in a query (later down the road).

It's half story/half journal.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Colo writer--

I'm not EA but it might depend if you have all three POV's in the SAME chapter or not. If they are alternating chapters I don't think you'd need two different fonts for the first and omni POV because you'd be able to tell by the writing itself which POV was being portrayed.

For the "journal" part the publisher may very well put that in a different font, but I'm unsure if YOU would in the MS.

(Gee, that was helpful... this is why I'm not EA.... moving right along...)

nw said...

I don't use Courier, but it does have an advantage. It looks "light" on the page and reads faster (less type per page), so you feel like you're reading a real page-turner.

Colorado Writer said...

Anon 9:30.

Thanks for the help. I start a new chapter with each POV, but I don't label the journal entries as a chapter.

It should feel intuitive to a reader, but I haven't shared with anyone to know.

The journal entries have a specific format and there is some free verse involved.

Thanks. :)

tim b said...

I like to work on texts in Courier, since I think the openness of it on the page/screen puts me in the right frame of mind to rewrite freely, move, change, correct, consider.

Finished texts get a final varnish of Palatino.

But I'm mostly an illustrator, so maybe I'm more of a freak about the visual part than most people?

Maybe one way to fool with a text in progress, during the editing stage, is to look at it in a variety of fonts... see how it feels across a variety of looks.

Obviously, however, dress it sensibly before sending it out in public.

Sarah said...

I like Arial personally (my eyes are growing old), but it does take more space than TNR. And one thing I have noticed is that I can get more words on the first page in TNR, so I have a better chance to impress the editor / agent / slush pile reader who only looks at the first page.

So I write in Arial and then check the first page to see if I need to convert to TNR before printing out for aubmission.

Stupid note: The comment box here is not sans serif, but it gets converted when you submit.

ae said...

Yes, yes, the comment box. Of course.

I guess my point is that if I were to read all day long (like editors),in sans serif, my eyes would prolapse.

If something is serifed, I read it more quickly, and get it the first time around. But if it is in avant garde, for instance, I'll naturally read it more slowly, and perhaps not get the gist of it that once. Because sans serif to me is hypnotic.

Anonymous said...

Colo Writer--

Maybe you could add a space before and after each journal entry and add a slug line before the entry --such as, Thursday, November 18 -- as a way to separate each entry from the main text (instead of using a different font?)

Once published the editor/copyeditor could put the entry line in bold type...

I'm reading "An Abundance of Katherines" right now and though it isn't a "journal" entry, the author does do a bold type/line separation each time he explains a different "Katherine."

--Anon 9:30

Rose Green said...

I worked for several years as an editor for university course materials (for their independent study program) and the FIRST thing I did was change everything from courier to times. I HATE courier. I find it very hard to read quickly, and it wastes paper. And--it's just plain ugly! So I'm glad the rest of the world now seems to think highly of TNR and the like.

Anonymous said...

Aw, I like Courier! I find it much easier on the eyes than TNR. Actually I really like Palatino too, but since I've started submitting, I'd always understood that Courier and TNR are the industry standard. Though I suppose you have to check guidelines carefully for the whims of particular houses.

Jennie said...

What if the type face changes throughout the story to help "illustrate" different aspects of things? Such as Lauren Child's work, especially eh Clarice Bean chapter books.

Sminthia said...

I've always understood that sans serif fonts are easier to read on a computer monitor and serif fonts are easier to read on paper.

Val Cox said...

I love this blog! I'm not a writer, and have no interest in children's book, but I can't seem to get enough of your writing. The days you skip, I wait and check frequently, just in case. Keep up the good work! Val

MG said...

I read/edit manuscripts all day and hate courier for that purpose. Give me TNR anyday. If I receive a text in anything else I convert it to TNR immediately.

And my most hated font of all time, 'beginner's delight': Comic MS

Anonymous said...

I have always liked Courier because it has an element of funkiness to it. It just seems to be less stodgy and goes well with my illustration work.

That said, I submit my longer mss in TNR, because I hear too much complaining about Courier. It seems to inspire real annoyance or resentment in some people.

For some serious enjoyment of typefaces you should go to What a gas! Who knew type could be so much fun?

When I was designing my last book, I purchased fonts that seemed to be the perfect complement to my illustrations, then told my publisher about them, so they could also purchase them.

I love playing with texts and typefaces, and with picture books you can really have a ball. But for chapter books and beyond, I guess a little funk could go too far.

Anonymous said...

Like most other children's editors I know, I loathe Courier. I find it exhausting to read, and it wastes even more paper in an industry that should already be ashamed of how much paper it wastes on a daily basis.

In the old days, when editors had to estimate the page count of a finished book without aid of a Word file, there was a simple formula using Courier and how many words on a line/lines on a page. But these days there's no strong reason to use Courier unless a publisher's guidelines specify that. A few adult publishers do still require it, though I don't know of any children's publishers that do.

How ironic that as I type this in the comment box, it's being automatically styled in Courier!

ae said...

Courier is purely functional, but completely devoid of artistry. I always thought that TNR and Papatino have class and integrity as fonts go. I also feel that people work in any form of visual media should expand their horizons and experiment with Garamond and Benguiat (what a great designer). Amongst others.

ae said...


How does one edit in the comment box?? Grrrr

Anonymous said...

Hmmm -- I never really looked at Palatino before; I like it! I've always liked Garamond too. But I use TNR in mss. Courier? NO way. ICK!

sylvia said...

I saw this and thought of your blog. I'll never doubt your posts about the slush you receive again!

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