PostScript on choosing a thesis font


in Internet matters, M.Phil thesis, Writing

Following hard upon questions of content and structure is another essential decision related to the thesis: what font to print it in. The obvious choice, based on past form, would be Garamond (the font used in the banner atop this page). It is definitely a more elegant font than the ubiquitous Times New Roman, but it is rather too common itself. Bembo is an older and rarer variant, which I believe was used to print the hardcover edition of The Line of Beauty. Cheltenham Book is an option I am considering.

For ease in reading, as well as general aesthetics, I strongly prefer a serif typeface. Indeed, if there were any apart from Times likely to be on any computer someone would use the blog from, I would use a serif typeface here. As it stands, it will use one of the following sans serif typefaces, in decreasing order of preference: Lucida Grande, Verdana, Arial (a bad ripoff of Helvetica, but very common), and whatever the system standard Sans-Serif is. Because of the font collections included in each OS, Mac users are likely to see Lucida Grande, while Windows users are likely to see Verdana.

Are there any other people out there who check the front pages for a blurb on the font before starting a book? If so, do you have any suggestions?

One final matter typographical: North American Mac users in Oxford, and there are a good many, will appreciate learning that you can make the Pound symbol (£) by hitting Option-3.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 24, 2006 at 4:22 pm

You know, the font concerns of most students are limited to: “This needs to be 15 pages. How big a font and margins can I get away with?”

Lee October 24, 2006 at 4:51 pm

My favourite font is Trebuchet MS. I was encouraged to change to a serif font for the final copy on the grounds of readbility, though said recommender also noted he had no difficulty reading it in Trebuchet MS… In the end I went for Garamond.

Antonia October 24, 2006 at 5:01 pm

Though I otherwise like serif fonts, I find them harder to read onscreen.

Anonymous October 25, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Clever as your title may be, don’t Macs generally use TrueType fonts?

PostScript is another level of fancy.

Milan October 25, 2006 at 1:38 pm

From what I have read, TrueType is better than PostScript Type I. I don’t know about type II.

In any case, both use fonts defined with straight lines and Bezier curves, with hints for scaling.

Anonymous October 25, 2006 at 5:11 pm

In any case, it’s probably worth spending a bit more to have it printed on decent paper. I gather your parents and grandparents should be given copies.

Milan December 31, 2006 at 2:55 am

Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder is another book set in a nearly-Garamond: the kind of font used by someone aware that font is important, too concerned to show this to use something obvious like Garamond, but sensible enough to choose something similar.

She chose Perpetua, a Monotype font released between 1925 and 1932. She also had the good taste to include “A Note about the Type” at the end of the book, as well as a reference on the copyright information page.

Perpetua is in the running, as a thesis font.

Milan January 9, 2007 at 9:03 pm

After much searching around, I now have Open Type format (OTF) versions of Bembo and Perpetua. The only question is how I can make sure the right thing comes out at the print shop, if I actually use these for my thesis.

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