Friday, January 31, 2020

The Font Of Knowledge


Something is happening in the Twitter sphere that caused the book world to panic. The Guardian newspaper weighed in on the act and I think it’s time the Murder Is Everywhere bloggers stood up and spoke out for what they believe to be true and right.


What font do you write in?

Be honest!

 Do you believe, as fantasy writer Rebecca F Kuang does, that anybody that doesn’t use Times New Roman 12 point is a monster.

          Courier New

Maybe we spend so long looking at that blank page, staring at the words we produce that we need the actual form of those words to be pleasing or relatable to our eyes.

                       Comic Sans

So Arial 12 point works for Sophie Hannah. John Scalzi he likes to work in Georgia, but when he’s done he goes back into Courier. The phantasy novelist Guy Gavriel Kay likes to work in something called New Century Schoolbook which I had to google and then I was quite impressed.

Even the Times New Roman people are starting to fight between 12 point and 14 point.

I could argue that’s an eyesight thing and also ergonomically, how far away the screen is from the eyeballs.


Iain Rankin, Sadie Jones and Marian Keyes all are Times New Roman users. Some authors like to use different fonts in the same typescript for flashbacks, pieces of internal narrative, in my case I’ve never changed font in the same TS but I have been known to go Italic. After much championing of the times New Roman the Calibri crowd came out in defence of their own personal choice. Some authors use Calibri when they’re writing factually, and then changing to something like Garamond when they are being more creative. Another Twitter user said that they look at so many fonts, designs and art while at work, they really like the blank style of Arial the minute they go home and are typing recreationally.

                        Book Antiqua

In the Guardian piece, graphic designer Sarah Hindman makes and interesting  that everybody is an individual yet when a computer defaults to Times New Roman everybody becomes identical and the creative person doesn’t like that.

              Bookman Old Style

I’m now wondering if all those little characteristics I give to people in novels should also include their default font. Do these terrible spreadsheet people who pair their socks properly and drive clean cars go for anything Sans Serif? Do the dog loving chocoholics who roll around the floor because the novel is not going well a little more Lucida font? Maybe reining it in to Bookman Antiqua for a second draft before behaving themselves and changing to Times New Roman for the publisher. Or have I just given myself away.

                Ariel Black

There’s an interesting comment made at the end, any font is fine but it should never speak lounder than the words it represents.

Caro Ramsay 31st Jan 2020


  1. What a thought provoking post, Caro! I never actually thought about this before, but I see definite psychological influences on my choice of different fonts for different tasks. And, no, Wingdings is not one of them. I suspect it's because of my early word processing days as a lawyer on a WANG--for those of us who remember the tiny green screens--that I'm turned off by Courier and Ariel, and vigorously embraced Times New Roman when it became available. Even today, I use TNR for for virtually everything I write EXCEPT in one area. Yes, all business and personal correspondence-- even my weekly blogs--I write in TNR, 12 point type, but expanded on the screen to 200% of actual size.

    So, what's the one exception? My books. I write on Scrivener, and for some reason that I cannot put my finger on--nor do I wish to determine why--I find myself transported to a different creative zone when I type in Cochin 14 point, zoomed to 200% actual size. Synapses just seem to fire differently when I see the words come out in Cochin. Whether or not that's a good thing I leave to my readers to decide, but it works for me in getting the words and ideas flowing.

  2. Hmm. Interesting. I must admit that I tend not to take too much notice. We have a shared template that we use for our books. Its TNR 12. (I just checked.) But for other stuff I use Calibri or Arial. I quite like the latter because the characters seem bigger and clearer for a given font, but that may be the age thing again.

  3. Caro, I use Book Antiqua and Bookman Old style. For my blogs, i choose Verdana when posting, but sometimes, depending on where I am in the world and what device I am using, Blogger switches to Times Roman, its default.

  4. I've spent most of my adult life writing in Courier New... but then, I've been a computer programmer, so fixed-spacing font comes in VERY handy at times. But when NOT programming, then it's all about proportional fonts, of course ("A life lived proportionally is a life of tit-for-tat"), and more often than not it's Times New Roman. I've heard over the years from a lot of folks (okay, more than 2 or 3) that when they read books, they want a serif font when on paper, but a sans-serif when on a screen. That's probably affected by the dot-density (i.e., the ability to 'smooth' the fonts).

    Ah, fonts. To each goose their gander.

  5. Hmmm. Interesting ideas and comments. I generally write in whatever font is currently engaged. Doesn't make any difference to me. Generally for reading I'm ergonomically biased, preferring a serif font on paper and sans-serif on the screen. I don't like serifs for titles, etc.

    I have certainly seen a huge evolution in word processing - my first serious use was in 1972 or thereabouts, on a mainframe computer, fixed spacing, and VERY clunky. Thankfully, we've progressed from there.

  6. I write in Times New Roman 14, but friends write in Ariel 14 because it does quote marks correctly.
    But when I design evites, I use Garamond or Comic Sans. I send friends email greetings in either of those, too. I have used Elephant bold in designing letterheads.