What's the best font to use for a readable, 20-page document?
April 25, 2010 2:55 PM   Subscribe

What's the best font to use for an approximately 20-page document? I'm applying for something and I need to send in a summary of the proposed project. I would normally use Times but I'm worried it's too cramped—it's really quite squeezed in there compared to other fonts. Is there a better one with a little more space? I feel like it should be common enough to be found on most machines, as I think the application will go in both electronically and on paper.
posted by saltykmurks to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Times new roman is good because it is so familiar -- it's easy to read. I have read many 20 page (or greater) documents in Times.

If you don't use Times, you should use another serifed font like Garamond. Serifed fonts are the ones with lines -- or tics? -- at the tops and bottoms of some letters -- they are easiest to read in large blocks which is why they are standard for books and newspapers.
posted by jb at 3:01 PM on April 25, 2010

Right. I do most of my writing in sans serif fonts as they display better onscreen, but they look odd when I convert them to serif for print, which is what caused me to do a sort of double-take when I was formatting this document and wonder if I was doing the right thing.
posted by saltykmurks at 3:02 PM on April 25, 2010

In addition -- applications are definitely not the time to be experimental or artsy -- unless maybe it's an art grant. My experience is with academic grant applictions, and I would stick with Times New Roman for it's very standard, professional look. I want my content to grab the attention, not my font. And the more familiar a font is, the easier it is to read.
posted by jb at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

And if you're sending it in electronically, you should send it as a pdf, in which case it won't matter what kind of fonts they have on their computer.
posted by phunniemee at 3:05 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have no idea why, but sans serifs. do read better on screen (eg Metafilter) but serifed are muh better on paper. I've had a student handbook done all in Helvetica or Arial or something, and it was so much less legible and so chintzy/twee looking compared to a nice straightforward Times.

That said, I did have a prof who loved Garamond and would reprint our essays in that to read (very small class). As I recall, that font is similar to but slightly more elegant than Times.
posted by jb at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2010

I personally like Tahoma, and I remember hearing somewhere that the screen and print versions look very similar to each other, more so than other fonts. I don't have an official source for that, but that's the reason the Virginia Department of Education gave for using Tahoma on its standardized tests.
posted by scarnato at 3:15 PM on April 25, 2010

Yeah, I've always kind of preferred Garamond, worried that it'll look too fancy-pants or something though.

I had this one book that was printed entirely in a sans serif font and it was terrible, like the whole thing was a photo caption or something.

Guess I should really just stick with Times huh?
posted by saltykmurks at 3:16 PM on April 25, 2010

A lot of technical writing is done in Palatino (serif font) or Frutiger, Verdana, or Tahoma (sans serif fonts). They are widely available on most people's computers and very readable.
posted by Houstonian at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2010

Don't use Verdana or Tahoma for print. They were designed for screen and don't look good on the page.

Palatino is sometimes called Book Antiqua on Windows machines. If you use Palatino, make sure you take care to use enough linespace. Any font will look cramped if you set it without enough linespace.

Use Book Antiqua for the text, but put the headers in a solid sans serif - Futura, Franklin Gothic or Helvetica. If the headers are shortish use all caps. Don't use small caps.
posted by zadcat at 3:29 PM on April 25, 2010

I've known a number of small companies that routinely use Book Antiqua because it's a little wider than Times New Roman but still has that formal print look, nothing particularly fancy.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:44 PM on April 25, 2010

I recently discovered junction, and I've been getting a lot of mileage out of it. A nice compromise between serif and sans-serif, I think.
posted by Anoplura at 4:22 PM on April 25, 2010

Be aware that if you use Palatino instead of Times, your document will be 25 pages instead of 20 (or something like that). Times New Roman was designed with the express intend of fitting more letters into the same space. Palatino is a more generous typeface.
posted by rikschell at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2010

Times New Roman is such a classic...but I think it also depends on content. If it's technical or scientific, Times is a great choice. One note abut type size...try to keep your line lengths no longer than an alphabet and a half. If you must go longer, add leading (the space between the lines).

Line length formulas here.
posted by Gusaroo at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it is a grant, do make sure to double-check any guidelines - some funders specify the typeface(s) allowed in submissions.
posted by clerestory at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2010

nthing Garamond.
posted by umbú at 6:27 PM on April 25, 2010

I'm not necessarily advocating it, but Times New Roman (or similar) is apparently standard APA style...
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:11 PM on April 25, 2010

Times New Roman is the default option for submitting a generic printed document because... Times New Roman is the default option for submitting a generic printed document.

Obsessing about the font is not necessarily a reflection of stress about submitting a document, but... Obsessing about the font can be a reflection of stress about submitting a document.
posted by ovvl at 9:21 PM on April 25, 2010

I love, love, love Garamond. BUT -- 2nd-ing double-checking the guidelines.

I'm an academic too, but in the sciences. We write NIH grant proposals all the time. Pretty much everyone uses 11-point Arial for this particular purpose (permissible fonts: Arial, Helvetica, Palatino, Georgia; Arial takes up the least space).

I might actually just go with Times New Roman, because it IS the "default option". When you're submitting proposals and applications, you don't want the font to detract from the content. Reviewers are a weird and finicky lot, typically receiving way more applications than they can fund (or even actually read) and they are looking for reasons to put your application in the circular file. Going with a "default font" can't hurt your chances; going with something off the beaten path could significantly hurt your chances.
posted by kataclysm at 9:38 AM on April 26, 2010

« Older Like Spy vs Spy only more complex.   |   It's not that I don't want to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.