Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Typeface, Fonts and Your Book

Que sera, sera. Sans serif, serif. Which is easier to read: an article or book with a font that has serifs or one that does not? To have feet or not to have feet that is the question.

Technically, serifs are small projections finishing off the end strokes of individual printing or computer generated press letters. Easier to understand is to say serifs are small lines on the tops and bottoms of each letter of the alphabet on some, not all, fonts.

ABCD abcd-sans serif ABCD abcd-serif

Some theorists say a font with serifs leads the eye along smoothly. Others say serifs make the individual letters more difficult to discertain versus the clean, simple lines of a sans (from French meaning ”without”) serif fonts. Potaytoe, potahtoe.

There is a difference between “typeface” and “font.” Typeface is a particular design of type. Font is a particular instance of type. You can have different fonts within one typeface (Arial bold, arial italic, arial black, arial rounded, etc.) Even each size is a different font.

Most studies show that typefaces with serif fonts are easier to read for a lengthy time. In 1932, Times New Roman was designated as THE typeface for newspapers. Our brains have been trained to expect serif letters. Web sites can simply respect the browser settings of the use or use sans serif type because sans serif typefaces have better resolutions on a computer screen.

If you are self-publishing here are some thoughts about choosing typeface and fonts Many authors do not think about it and use the default settings for their Word processors default setting.

1. The general rule is that newspapers and books often use two different fonts but no more than two. The fonts should be similar in look, e.g., Helvetica (headings) and Garamond (body of text); Verdana (headings) and Palatino Nova 189@ (body of text.) Work to find two that are compatible and not in juxtaposition.

2. Non-serif fonts can be used for titles, chapter headings, table of contents, and bibliographies for distinction and variety but not for the main body of your work. Sans serif fonts are thought to be not easily readable in large block of texts. Transposing from your computer to the printed book page changes the crispness and clarity of sans fonts. Suggested sans serif fonts are Gulliver, Helvetica, Verdana and Lucinda Grande.

3. Serif fonts may be used for all portions of your book: title, introduction, chapter titles, table of contents, body, and appendices. One article I read said to avoid using Times New Roman in self-publishing as it looks amateurish because it is too common. It is associated with newspapers that we read in short bursts and toss away. We want readers to linger, enjoy our words, and recommend our books to others. Some suggested fonts are: Baskerville, Cambria, Courier, Garamond and Lucida Fax, all 12 point.

4. Decorative fonts are as described: embellishments. They may be used, if at all, only as the beginning letter of a new chapter or chapter titles. They must be of good quality, easily readable, and close to the typeface and fonts used for main body of the chapters. Some fonts are so different from the body type that the eye fails to comprehend the letter and thus the reader gets confused.

5. Be leery of free font programs. Often they do not come with true bold and italics or all the characters you may need (no percentage sign or ampersand for example.) In choosing your typeface and fonts, check to see if you can click on the actual setting, e.g., Arial bold or Arial Italic. If you use “control” plus “bold”, you will be using a fake setting.

Some publishing houses will reject your work if they feel you have used a fake or free font program because they have to correct it. Microsoft invented Arial just for their programs. It contains different names on its control panel which allows you to chose, and receive, exactly what you want matching the quality of your other font letters.

Typeface and font selection is subjective. Choose yours wisely, remembering to go for the generally accepted and shine with the most important part, the writing.


1 comment:

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Thank you for bringing clarity to a subject that's always left me fairly mystified--fonts and typefaces.