Reading, Writing, and Fonts

Typography is a very important, and often underappreciated craft. The little details such as the spacing between lines and letters in the text, the thickness (or weight) of the lines in the letters, and of course, the font used…they all contribute to how we read and write, and alter how a piece is presented.

I’m not going to talk about things like line spacing or kerning here…although I probably could write a whole blog post about it. I’m just going to focus on fonts in this one.

First off, I really love fonts. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and an infinite amount of ways to depict those letters so that they present a different tone or mood. Pieces written in Times New Roman always remind me of school, and have a rather serious tone about them. Helvetica, one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) sans-serif fonts, is often seen on business websites and pieces that look for a clean, ‘modern’ view.

Every font has its purpose, and those fonts also impact how we view the words we read. We also classify fonts based on their appearance, and the tones they evoke. If you were to picture a scroll from the middle ages, the way the letters look would seem far different from how you’d envision the text on a sci-fi computer panel to appear.

Likewise, if a font is used in a way that clashes with its appearance, the end result can look faintly ridiculous. I think the most controversial / talked about of these is Comic Sans, a fun, comic font that’s used far too often in handouts or writings that are meant to be serious. A few examples.

As an aside, some of the more flamboyant fonts shouldn’t be used to write paragraphs of text. It’s a pet peeve of mine to see fonts that would be perfectly good for big, bold headers be used for body copy, when readability and legibility have to trump style. Please don’t ever write essays in Impact.

Actually, while we’re on the subject of writing, I find that the font I choose to write in also determines the content and tone of what I end up throwing onto the page (okay, the screen, if you want to get technical). If I crack up Word, the default font is Calibri. I don’t like Calibri, but that’s also a discussion for another time. I can never get anything done writing in Calibri.

I’ve associated Helvetica with blog posting. The font used in the WordPress post editor (at least, for this theme) is Helvetica Neue. I have no idea how to change it, and it’s kind of stuck in my mind that way. Whenever I write in Helvetica, it usually devolves into rambling or some kind of philosophical analysis…because that’s usually what I blog about.

Likewise, I have different fonts that I use whenever I write different things, such as stories, essays, emails, etc. And if I ever get REALLY stuck on writing something, one of my strategies is to switch fonts, and see if the different visuals can inspire me to keep going.

I have no idea if this applies to everyone, or if I just like fonts a bit too much for my own good. But in any case, having a good stack of fonts to always rotate between has helped me with writing…and sometimes, with reading articles I really didn’t want to read.

As a final tangent of the day, I write all of my stories in Alegreya. I’m not sure why, but I just love that font. In fact, if I could, I’d probably edit the font in this blog to be Alegreya, because it’s nice to read…although I’d keep the post editor in Helvetica. So that I can keep making strange musings and reflections in my blog, of course.


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