The problem with fonts

I’m a self-confessed typeface fanatic. Being both a writer and a visual artist, the appearance of fonts means a lot to me. So when I start seeing people complain endlessly about one font or another used for submissions, I both understand, and find occasion to resent their outlook.

It’s fine to have a favoured typeface. Everyone who deals with text probably does! But unless an editor or agent has specifically and clearly stated in their submission guidelines that they expect a certain font, they don’t get the freedom to judge a piece if someone is using a perfectly neat and professional typeface (Times, Garamond, Courier, so on).

This comes about because I once read an article by an editor, one of those “writers tips” kind of pieces. In it, this person made some noises about being biased against submissions printed in Courier. There was an implication made that a writer submitting in Courier was doing it all for appearances, to try and make themselves seem more “genuine” as an author or some bizarre conception.

As a person who chooses to write in Courier (Dark Courier, to be precise), I felt pretty irritated. If I submit in Courier, it’s because that’s A) what I use personally, B) a very common industry standard, and C) they haven’t said not to. I like monospace fonts very much. They are comfortable and clear to read while I’m typing, and they’re very neat and tidy in print. When it comes down to it, Courier was the accepted norm for so many years, it’s just unprofessional for an editor to act like anyone using it is doing so for show.

Don’t get me wrong: if an editor, agent or any other industry professional specifically states that they would like to receive submissions in a certain typeface, by all means, a bit of exasperation is expected if they still get submissions in a different font. A writer should read and follow the submission guidelines of every individual they approach. As long as the editor/agent’s expectations have been made easily accessible and easy to understand, there’s no good excuse for them not to be followed.

But if there’s nothing specific to go on, I’ll be submitting hard copies in my size 12, indented, double-spaced Dark Courier. If someone doesn’t like that font, they need to make their preferences clear from the outset.

~A

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12 thoughts on “The problem with fonts

  1. I agree. Courier is a great font, though I personally lean more towards Times New Roman, which is also a standard nowadays. If someone specifically states that they only accept such and such font, then I’ll change it, but my standard is Times New Roman.
    To say people only use Courier for appearance? That doesn’t make sense. After all, it s a standard and has been for years. I mean, sure; people use if for appearance, too. It looks nice on paper.

    1. I know of more than a few authors (and editors and agents, for that matter) who still make estimations on wordcount the old way, too, which requires a monospace font like Courier to work!

      ~A

  2. You should try writing every-other word in Comic Sans or Papyrus sometime for that maximum professional appeal.

  3. EVERYTHING I TYPE IS IN WINGDINGS. YOU CAN ONLY READ THIS BECAUSE WORDPRESS AUTO-CONVERTS.

    Unless I’m going for a specific effect or trying to fulfill a submission requirement, I almost always use Arial. I just like it; it reads well & looks simple. I do wish they topped the capital Js, though.

  4. Fonts and the strange prejudices behind them scare me. I’m always worried about choosing the wrong one (except in the case, as you say, where they tell you exactly what font they prefer or would like you to submit in).

    Personally, Times New Roman is my font, but that comes with a load of crap only a level below comic sans! I can understand not wanting to see a book printed in Times, but for general usage, I prefer it.

    It’s kind of funny. Of all the things writers have to deal with. No wonder we’re such a neurotic bunch at times!

    1. Well, when you DO read one of the industry professionals freaking out over it, when they didn’t necessarily state a preference in the first place, it’s really kind of terrifying. Something so simple as a font could send someone into a spiraling pet peeve rage, and you wouldn’t even know you did it! Talk about nerve wracking.

      ~A

  5. I’m like you that I love typefaces, and I would also consider myself a typeface fanatic. That said, I always use Times New Roman (although my preference is also Courier!)… my hope is that with my submissions, I want to use the typeface that is most likely to fade into the background as they read my submission — and for some reason (based on something I read once, I think), that for me is Times Roman….

    1. Just based on my personal feeling, I would disagree that Times New Roman could “fade into the background”. To me, it’s just that little bit too cramped to be THAT easy to read! 😉 Compared to other neat serif fonts such as Georgia or Palatino Linotype (or indeed, Book Antiqua, Bookman Old Style, and Century Schoolbook), it is much smaller and squished together. That said, far better than a sans serif font for any large body of text!

      ~A

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