Sunday, 24 October 2010

Taking affront at a font

I've developed an aversion to serif fonts.

It's been coming on a while. But it's getting stronger. Every so often Word seems to forget my defaults and goes back to Times New Roman. I almost can't bear it any more.

They say a serif font's easier to read, more literary.  I particularly loathe the way some people print poems out in curly serif scripts you can barely read because 'it looks more poetic'. More poetic, my arse. If the words don't do it, don't make the font do it!

Some editors require your work in New Courier, which is even worse. They have their reasons - every letter is the same width, which is useful to them in ways we can not fully understand (or should I say, I cannot be arsed to research just now?).

But don't you think a nice sans-serif is much cleaner? It's rounder and more 'with it' in ways the expression 'with it' will never fully understand. Doesn't have to be Arial. Tahoma's nice too (oh, Tahoma!) and I use Trebuchet for this blog. I did go through a phase of doing everything in cheerful Comic Sans but it's generally considered to lack seriousness. (See right)

Two interesting facts about fonts:

1. Incidentally the word 'font' is from the same source as fondue  ('something which has been melted') after the casted molten metal typesets used to be made out of. 

2. According to Wikipedia (the 'font' of all knowledge) the reason sans-serif has become the font of choice on-line is because serif fonts can show twittering on the horizontal serifs. And that has nothing to do with Twitter!

So what is your font of choice, and how strongly do you feel?



  1. I've had to overcome my aversion to TNR since discovering that some editors require submissions in that font. New Courier is cheesy and I'm taking my cue from your enlightening fondue fact.

    We standardised on Arial and Verdana at work and I got used to the 'clean' look.

  2. Love the sign! I have to say I'm on the side of those who can't stand Comic Sans.

    I've been told that a serif font is typically easier to read than serif fonts at a smaller size, but then sans serif fonts are easier to read at a larger size. And any of us producing work online have to choose common fonts because how the page looks will ultimately depend on what fonts are installed on the machine at the other end.

    I read an interesting article just this morning that suggests people take more in when something is in a hard-to-read font because they have to work harder to read it at all.

  3. I find a serif font (TNR is my font of choice) much easier to read when glancing at sermon notes in a pulpit, while keeping eye contact with the congregation.

    Mind you, since my detached retina a couple of years ago I have one short-sighted eye and one long-sighted, so reading anything in the middle distance (the precise height of pulpits, it seems) is fraught with difficulties.

  4. I like the nice stone ones you get in old churches. Oh, was that not what we were discussing?...

  5. Of course on reading this, I had to rush over to check what font we use at RA. Trebuchet, what a relief, although must confess to a serif for the title (somehow the few blogger font san serif choices didn't look right to me). I absolutely agree there's far too much TNR around--do those publishers get a cut or something? To me, it's the "work" font. I'd rather use anything else--Trebuchet is a favorite--when I'm not at the day job!

  6. Christine - I wrestle other library assistants to the ground when they try to put up signs in stupid unreadable fonts so you're doing well to standardise! (p.s. Just popped over to your blog & realised I followed but didn't subscribe so you weren't popping up in Google reader - apologies for not 'visiting' you for a bit!)

    Bill - Yes, I remember hearing (reading?) that serif were easier to read and I am probably being unreasonable. I checked out your link - but I'd hardly describe Bodoni and Comic Sans as difficult to read - I thought they were forcing people to read reams of Edwardian script!

    Dave - I'd be a bit scared of eye contact during a sermon... 'Does he mean me?

    Fran - I think you must be referring to one of the Gothics ;-)

    Rainy - That's exactly what they taught us in desk-top publishing that a mixture is good - san-serif title, serif font & vice versa.

  7. Your post has certainly made me think! I tend to write using Georgia but always submit in TNR. Not sure why I like Georgia, though. I just prefer it.

  8. If I ever spot you in my congregation, I shall now make a point of staring at you. And probably pointing.

    My font of choice, for personal letters and the like, is Bookman Old Style.

  9. I like serifs. I do think they're easier to read when you go small - less than 11 points, but then anything less than 8 points is hard to read in any font. Sans serif text is just as easy to read in a normal size, I just don't like it as much from an aesthetic point of view. You say it's cleaner, but to my eye it's more mechanical, less human. I don't like the suggestion that serif is more literary, which sounds pretentious, but I do think that stylistically it's more connected to the modern history of printed text, and I do admit to liking that connection.

  10. I did not know what a serif was. But now that I do, I can say with confidence that I agree with you, BB, about Trebuchet and Tahoma. I switch it t up between those two and Arial. Thanks for teaching me something yet again.

  11. Constant width typefaces such as New Courier and Monaco can be helpful when presenting data in tabulated form (Accounts, spread-sheets etc). The "Space" character is the same width as the alphanumerics, which greatly helps collimation.

  12. PS I laughed a BIG laugh at the sign...

  13. So I guess your favorite actor wouldn't be ... Omar Serif?

  14. Ellie - Georgia? You're not going to go all country and western on me are you? ;-)

    Dave - nothing personal, but that isn't going to happen!

    Mark - That's a really good point about the historical connection... I used to do a bit of calligraphy so I'm not averse to it but Comic Sans always felt more human to me than TNR! (Maybe I should have asked people what everyone's hand-writing was like too, to establish whether there was any correlation)

    Deborah - I'm very educational, me. 8-)

    Nick - Yay!... and welcome to the blog.