Sunday, April 25, 2010


We spent a week or two in class discussing font. To be honest, the main thing I remember is that the professor showed us a parody of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," in which some nerdy-types were singing about a font called Neutraface. ("You'll read my, you'll read my, you can read my neutraface! Even if it's bold-italic...") It was hilarious, and it still gets stuck in my head sometimes.

But that's not the real focus of the font unit. See, here's my issue with font: it's supposed to be a rhetorical choice. I've heard several times now that you shouldn't just go with the default, but have a reason for using the font you use.

Well, you know what? I like Times New Roman. It's a nice, standard, serif font that's very easy to read. It's what I and many other people are used to. No, it's not always the best choice... but for most of the writing I do, it does just fine. So what if it happens to be the default? It's the default for a reason.

But I like to keep an open mind, so let's play with some fonts and see what sort of rhetorical effect they have.

Let's start with Arial. It's sans-serif, which means you read it a little slower. (In case you don't know, Imaginary Reader, serifs are the cute little lines that hang out on the tops and bottoms of letters in some fonts. Sans-serif is when those lines aren't there, like in this font. Sans-serif: I. Serif: I. See the difference?)

I've never been fond of Arial. Yes, it's a standard font, just like Times New Roman, but it doesn't have quite the elegance. Sans-serif feels very informal, and isn't usually a good idea if you've got a lot of reading to do. This is already hurting my eyes, but that's probably because I'm being a bit hyper-critical.

This is Courier. We have serifs again. We also look like we're on a typewriter. (Why am I using the royal "we"?) Depending on my mood, I do like Courier sometimes, but it definitely has its time and place. It feels like it belongs on an official government document. I wouldn't want to use this for a paper on the Muppets. (And yes, I've written multiple papers on the Muppets.)

Here's Georgia. Blogger, by the way, uses the short names for fonts, so while I'm fairly certain Georgia has a longer name, I don't know what it is. Now, I don't really have any issue with Georgia. It's strikingly similar to Times. If I want something this similar to Times, why not just use Times? There must be some difference between the two. Let's see if we can find it.

Georgia: The red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.
Times: The red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog.

Alright, so Georgia is a bit bigger than Times, although that Times looks way smaller than the Times at the top of the post.

This one is Lucida Grande. It's serifed, but not quite as serifed as Times. Note how that apostrophe is not curved back there. In Times, apostrophes and quotation marks are curved. I'm not really sure what advantage Lucida Grande has over Times. A lot of fonts look an awful lot alike, don't they?

Now we have Trebuchet, which was my font on Instant Messenger for a while. Oddly enough, I tend to use sans-serif fonts on IM, and I do a lot of IM reading. So I have no real issue with Trebuchet, but again, sans-serif seems less formal to me. (That may be why I use it for IM, where I mostly engage in casual conversation.) I probably wouldn't want to use Trebuchet to write a formal proposal.

Verdana, I think I also used for IM at some point. It's sans-serif, nothing too fancy... So, again, fine in a casual setting, but I probably wouldn't use it for a memo to the CEO.

Webdings. Enough said. (Translation: Webdings. Enough said.)

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