One of my surprises after belatedly resuming my long-deferred dream of being a published writer was how many writers these days don’t have any special font. The idea of typing in some generic, personality-less font like Times New Roman, Courier, or Arial just because someone I don’t know said so is so puzzling to me.

First, I’ve come across a number of agent blogs/websites saying that all they care about is that the font is legible and professional, not that it’s one particular font. Second, I wouldn’t prefer to submit to anyone who demanded a font I absolutely loathe and despise. Why is there a plethora of fonts on a computer if there’s this supposed standard everyone is supposed to be using no matter what?

In 1993, early in my 8th grade year, I got the late Olga Litowinsky’s Writing and Publishing Books for Children in the 1990s at a school bookfair. One of her pieces of advice was to use a typewriter-looking font if you’re writing on a computer. Now, I’m old enough to have used a typewriter more than a few times, in spite of having had a computer in the house since ’84. And I knew that the default Helvetica I’d always used did not look like typewriter font. So I looked through the other fonts, and thought Bookman looked closest to typewriter font.

When our dear ’84 Mac short-circuited and I had to wait my turn to use the new ’93 Mac, I discovered Bookman wasn’t a choice. Palatino was the closest I could find, and so for 19 years now, I’ve been typing exclusively in Palatino. It fits me like a glove. To open up a blank document and type in anything else would feel like cheating. Not only that, but when I look at other fonts, as pretty as I might find them, none of them feels quite right. Only Palatino gives me that feeling of comfort, security, and perfection.

However, there are other serif fonts I like looking at, fonts that are professional and attractive. They might not be my perfect match, but they could be the perfect match for another writer, just as Palatino is my font soulmate. Other attractive serif fonts include:

Baskerville (including Baskerville Old Face)
Big Caslon
Book Antiqua (which is almost identical to Palatino)
Calisto MT
Footlight MT Light
Garamond (the default font of this blog’s template)
Imprint MT Shadow
The Lucida family of fonts
Modern No. 20
Plantagenet Cherokee

But after all these years, I’ve come to be not so anti-Helvetica anymore. I never particularly liked it way back when (esp. because it seemed unnatural for its capital I to have no bars on it), but I have to admit that it does have a personality and a rather distinctive, modern look. If you really want to type in a sans-serif font, that’s a really good font to choose.

For fancy things like title pages or something like a wedding invitation, I use Edwardian Script. My computer doesn’t have a huge cornucopia of script fonts, but of the few it does have, that one caught my eye immediately. Since it’s so small even in 12-point, however, I’ve found I have to make it a bit bigger so it looks more legible on the page. I’ve since discovered Chopin Script, which I like even more, but it’s not one of the fonts packaged in my computer.

And if you’re really interested in typewriter-looking fonts, there are a bunch you can download here. My favorites are Cassandre Graphika and Reiner Graphika. When it comes to typewriter-esque fonts already available on the Mac, I like American Typewriter.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should never type your book in a font like Comic Sans, Jazz LET, Wide Latin, or any of the fancy handwriting/script fonts!

4 thoughts on “Picking a personalized font

  1. Goudy Old Style is a favorite of mine since I discovered it in a really nice copy of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I try to use it when I can find it.


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