Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Font of One's Own

Minor it may be, but what's this new fascination with fonts all of a sudden in the book world? 

A few books I noticed lately have a note on the font used - a short explanation of why the author has chosen the specific font used. 

The book I'm reading at the moment, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker has such a note - The book was set in Transitional 521, a Bitstream version of Calledonia, designed by William A. Dwiggins in 1938. He descibed the face as having "something of that simple, hard-working, feet-on-the-ground quality" as well as a "liveliness of action." I'm thinking she chose it for the implications of its name, seeing since the theme of the novel is transition. Maybe it's a case of matching your font to your theme?

Also, The Song of Achilles which I mentioned previously here has a quite lengthy 'Note on the Type' at the end of the book,  going into the history of its chosen font - Baskerville - and a detailed analysis of its physical stylistics. But no reason as to why it was used. Which got me to thinking - what is the point of such notes on font? Is it a new publishing necessity? The beginning of a new trend?

Have any other readers out there come across this? 

And I wonder about E-readers. Do they display all the different fonts of different books? Or is it one-font-fits-all for digital readers? Oh, I don't think I'd like that. Because I suppose the font of a book characterises it in some way.

Notice how all the classics have that dense dark tightly-packed font which seems to deem them as old before they even begin? And the new modern Penguin classics have quite a 'classic' font, immortalising the stories in a print that screams of literary sophistication and a suave coolness that entices you to read them. 

Yes, it's not just the cover of the book that entices you to read it anymore - but the inside print style. Imagine that!

But on a personal typing note, I suppose every one of us has our personal favourites. I use Georgia for these posts. Why? Hmm, because it was the best that Blogger had to offer..? I suppose I just like it. I like the slight curvature of the letters, the neat structure of them, the medium pleasant plumpness of its characters. And  because it didn't seem so stiff and formal. 

Like Times New Roman for example. I'll never forget at a writing workshop once, one of my classmates reading out a short story about a student who mentioned that they hated the 'clinical starchy feel' of Times New Roman. That it was restrictive of creativity. Ha! But yes, I would have to agree there. It feels too formal and timid - too much the font of college essays and formal letters and perfectly proofread prognosis.

Then there was the Comic Sans phase I went through. It was the preferred font of my teaching and tutoring notes. Because it seemed clear and explanatory and easy to digest, a veritable casual and friendly sort of font that I hoped suited my casual and friendly and explanatory teaching/tutoring style. But I soon realised it seemed too notes-y and too immature for anything other than teaching materials. (This was confirmed for me when I recently saw a post on Facebook ridiculing a Comic Sans printed poster in an office - saying it should be kept in the classroom! More suitable for ABCs than memos. )

See, a font can say a lot about the nature of what is written in it. 

And from what I've seen of writing workshops and meetings, every writer has their own preferred font, and to write in another one, just wouldn't feel right. My own preferred writing font (for poetry and prose) is Garamond. I like the old-style bookish feel of it. I couldn't write a poem in anything else, no siree. My poems demand it! Tempus Sans? Too weak and wobbly and whimsical.  Verdana? Too plain and scientific- like. For facts only. Or business presentations.

For articles, I prefer something more straight-up, more clear and precise like Calibri. Or sometimes, if I'm in a real 'writer' mood -  Courier Sans. It has all the drama and tension of journalism and wide-spaced urgency of real key-thudding type or a telegram's frantic stop-stop print.

Strange isn't it, this font obsession? In the days of handwritten manuscripts (which some writers still prefer) there was no such decisions or preferences.  But then our handwriting took care of all that. It says a lot about us too. And I suppose fonts are just an extension of this. Just look at the many fonts that mimic handwriting: Monotype corsiva, lucida handwriting and the title of this blog, Homemade Apple (which I can't replicate here darn it! But you can just glance up and see it.)

What about you? What's your preferred font? Do tell! And better still, for what reasons? It may prove handy to know in the case of having your book published and wanting to put that personal touch on the script, as seems most en-vogue at the minute. 

Well for now I'm signing off in a quite posh Lucida Calligraphy  - and off to Word to doodle in a grand variety of fonts... 

How far the quill and ink has come!

~ Siobhán


  1. Listing the font a book is printed in is nothing new. In fact I would say just the opposite, it is often sorely lacking. Take my book, Daughter of Derry: The Story of Brigid Sheils Makowski, no font is listed and I'm clueless as to what font was used, however, I like the font. It may be Pluto Press' standard font and whatever they used I'm more than pleased to be one of their authors (although it is now available in soft cover from iUniverse and available on Amazon).

    I have always disliked New Times Roman perhaps because it's Microsoft Word's standard font. In the past, and because of the novelty of being able to choose the font one may use in this modern computer age, I've looked at a few font types before settling on 'Ariel': a nice solid straight-forward font that tells it like it is on the page.

  2. hehehe,i enjoy how particular you can be about something that most people wouldn't give another thought fact,i think i enjoy people being particular fullstop.when it comes to writing and expression i enjoy it even more :)


  3. Thanks Margie. Yeah - I only recently noticed the font listing on some books... never before though, that's why I thought it was a new fad!
    I suppose publishers would have their own selected fonts... but I took it from these books I mentioned that the authors got to choose their font.
    Oh Arial,yes, that's a nice one! And may I say Margie - I think it suits your clear journalistic style! See - each font to its rightful writer! :)

  4. Hi Yvonne, welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! :) I think I'm just a itty-bitty nit-picking nerd at heart! Here's to particular!


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