Saturday, February 1, 2014

Beware of the Font Snob

I recently finished the third draft of my latest YA, and have asked several folks to read it and provide feedback. Logan, one of my AP students he said overall he liked the story, but he was horrified by the chapter in comic sans font.
“Really? why?”
“Comic sans is the white trash of fonts.”

The book is, written in Arial, is narrated by a male protagonist’s in first person, and I wanted his passages to physically differ from the woman’s journal he discovers. I thought Comic Sans had a feminine look to it.

I told my friend and fellow writer Elizabeth about Logan’s reaction, and she agreed with him. “Comic sans is awful,” she said. “You have to change it.” I sent her an electronic copy of my novel, and she admitted she changed the font on her copy before she could read the chapter in question. “When I started to read the character’s journal, it was like Minnie Mouse and Daffy Duck were screeching in my head,” she said. “It was unreadable.”

This led me to an investigation of font snobs. There are 125,000 pages linked to the term ‘font snob,’ and one can download 20,000 different fonts from a single site. There is even a blog called The Font snob blog.

The banner at the top reads: Hi. My name is Justin, and I'm a graphic designer. Most people don't give typefaces a second thought. They shamelessly use Comic Sans, Hobo, or Papyrus. It's time to get oriented about the beauty of the letterform. This is my passion. This is my disease. This is The Font Snob Blog

Some people need lives.

I admit a preference to san serif fonts because as an art student, when I had to hand letter my work with an old fashioned quill pen, serifs were the bane of my existence. One slip of the pen when I filled in those damn serifs and the work was ruined. Serifs were a pain in the ass, so I gravitate to using fonts like Arial, Calibri and other san serif typefaces. Comic sans is a member of that group.

“Why is there a problem with comic sans?” I asked.
“comic sans is like an undesirable body shape,” Elizabeth said. “It needs to go on a diet.”

I typed lines in Arial, Verdana and Comic Sans to compare.
See how comic sans is squat compared to the others It’s like someone stepped on it.?”
“So the reason I don't mind the typeface is it’s an endomorph like me?”
Logan and Elizabeth are both Ectomorphs, those stick figure body types who can eat anything they want (and we secretly hate them for it) and never gain weight. The soft sided Endomorphs like me just think about food and gain five pounds.  Neither of those fonts is heavily muscled, though.  Apparently the Verdana font has six pack abs.

“It’s a matter of taste, Elizabeth said. She used to do newspaper ad layouts, and fonts were like their personal signature.

Here are a few fonts. This one is Tempus itc. Not bad. Maybe a little spindly.
 Lucida is rather pleasant, but I used it in another section of the novel.
what does this one look like? No.
palatino italciced MAYBE
euphemia is leaner. This could work.
calibri Is this like comic sans on a diet ?
fzshyuti font. I like the name of it.
kalinga font. Another maybe
batang che- too much like courrier
gulim font is an ectomoroph on steroids
trebuchet is probably too much like comic sans
but at least I didn’t write the chapter in wingdings:

i cant write it in wing dings
or wing dings do
and here is wing dings 3

Sorry, but I still like comic sans. It’s a fat bottomed girl like me.
What are some of your favorite fonts?Happy Writing.


  1. Laura, funny post--enjoyed it! But, it may mislead some beginning writers who may think it's all right to use other than Times New Roman (and occasionally Courier) in their mss sent to an agent or publisher. Most gatekeepers today insist on TNR (with Courier in the past being acceptable, but not so much nowadays), and it isn't because they're old fogies or anything like that. It's for two important reasons.

    One, editors and agents read huge numbers of pages every day and therefore they want to read in a font that doesn't lead to headaches or eye stress. Because of the seriffs, TNR is the easiest on the eyes. Fonts with short, stubby seriffs are very difficult to read and do lead to eyestrain and headaches. That's the main reason it's insisted upon.

    The second reason is word count. Editors almost always have space requirements for what they accept and if the mss is in TNR all they have to do is glance at the page numbers and they know instantly how many words it will be. Nobody pays attention to those "computer word counts" which count words with a different definition than editors do and if anyone includes one of those "estimated word counts" on the title page, the editor is going to assume this is from an amateur who hasn't kept up on contemporary submission procedures and that indicates the work may be amateurish as well, a red flag we all want to avoid.

    In fact, anything but TNR is going to instantly label the writer as an amateur and that usually isn't a good thing when hoping for a close read.

    Courier or Courier New used to be acceptable but no longer. There are a few gatekeepers who will still accept it, but more and more they are even advising folks that they don't like it. It has shorter seriffs and an entirely different word count per page than TNR and it's just plain harder on the eyes.

    Personally, I like Bookman Old Style, and often write in it because it's pleasing to my own eyes, but I would never send a mss in with that font. MIght as well stamp "Dilettante" in red ink on the front of the mss... So I always change it back to TNR before sending it on.

    The thing is, editors and agents aren't "font snobs." They're simply overworked folks who want to hold onto their eyesight as long as possible and avoid having to take vast quantities of Aspirin....

    Now, the editor of a book house or magazine preparing the work for publication doesn't have to stick to TNR and most don't. They have a lot of freedom in being creative with fonts and many are. But, even then, there are many practical reasons they don't use fonts that may look cool to the untrained eye that they've learned from years of being in the industry.

    I didn't mean to crack on your post at all, Laura--just wanted to make sure beginning writers didn't think it was okay to send in work to a gatekeeper that will almost guarantee a rejection. There really are sound and practical reasons for why some fonts are okay and others aren't.

    1. Les, as always, thank you for the reply. And the advice as to MSS submissions. I only allow my students to use TNR or Arial, since most college profs feel the same way as editors as far as funky fonts go.

      I have noticed a few agents state eir preferences for fonts in submissionpackages

    2. Sorry about the typos. I am trying to reply using my iPad and its being temperamental.

  2. I knew you knew that, Laura! But, sometimes there are beginning writers who might think it's okay to use different fonts... And, I don't know about academic writing and it may be that Arial is fine with those editors! Just glad you didn't take offense for me being a "buttinsky!" I'm a huge fan of both you and your blog--always great info!

    1. Thank you, Les. I'm a big fan of you and yours as well.