Which font should I use for my thesis?
May 16, 2005 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm finishing up my master's thesis, and I am having trouble picking a font to print it in. The thesis writing guide we are given just says it must be a "classic" font. I'd like something snazzy, yet easy to read. Save me from the clutches of Times New Roman!

Right now I'm leaning towards Helvetica, or maybe Georgia.
posted by amelliferae to Grab Bag (43 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm partial to Tahoma. Easy to read and stands out from the Times New Roman/Arial crowd.
posted by Blue Buddha at 7:30 AM on May 16, 2005


I like Garamond myself.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:32 AM on May 16, 2005


Palatino is my favorite serif font for class+readability. But really, there's nothing wrong with Times New Roman, y'know?
posted by bricoleur at 7:33 AM on May 16, 2005


Gill Sans. So classic, so elegant.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:34 AM on May 16, 2005


Lordy, don't use Helvetica! Your thesis will look like a big, long email.

There really is something to be said for a classy(ish)-looking serif font: it makes things look much more professional. I hear you that Times New Roman gets tired, though. A couple old standbys for me have always been Palatino and New Century Schoolbook (often shortened, I think, to just Century, but please correct me on that if I'm wrong). They're serif fonts, but with slightly more character (ha!) than TNR, but they still look "scholarly" and professional, in my opinion.

Oh, and serifs are the things that make fonts easier to read; without them, especially in long documents, our eyes have a tendency to blend the letters together.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:38 AM on May 16, 2005


i used palatino, but maybe that's a bit 80s now? those were the days...
posted by andrew cooke at 7:43 AM on May 16, 2005


Another vote for Garamond. Nice and light, moderate stress, not as in-your-face as TNR. Centruy Gothic for headings.
posted by Framer at 7:43 AM on May 16, 2005


Second Dr. Wu--stay with a serif font for readability, especially in a long document. And congratulations on finishing your thesis!
posted by LarryC at 7:48 AM on May 16, 2005


I've always liked Bookman Old Style, but I'm just strange.
posted by BigCalm at 7:49 AM on May 16, 2005


Baskerville, perhaps?
posted by Prospero at 7:49 AM on May 16, 2005


Dr Wu's suggestion of Century Schoolbook is a very good one.
posted by dublinemma at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2005


Lordy, don't use Helvetica! Your thesis will look like a big, long email.

There really is something to be said for a classy(ish)-looking serif font: it makes things look much more professional. I hear you that Times New Roman gets tired, though. A couple old standbys for me have always been Palatino and New Century Schoolbook (often shortened, I think, to just Century, but please correct me on that if I'm wrong). They're serif fonts, but with slightly more character (ha!) than TNR, but they still look "scholarly" and professional, in my opinion.

Oh, and serifs are the things that make fonts easier to read; without them, especially in long documents, our eyes have a tendency to blend the letters together.

on preview: I wrote this a while ago, but the site crapped out on me between preview and post. dammit.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:04 AM on May 16, 2005


Sorry for the double, folks. Site weirdness.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2005


I third Garamond. Gill Sans is awesome, but I like it more for frosting than cake.
posted by sciurus at 8:07 AM on May 16, 2005


Warnock (check out the lickable y). Or maybe Minion .
posted by Boo! at 8:23 AM on May 16, 2005


Comic Sans MS.
posted by rafter at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2005


I like Garamond too, but I'm much more partial to Goudy Old Style myself. Note particularly the flourishes in the lowercase g and k as well as the capital Q compared to other serif fonts. It's the little touches that make all the difference!
posted by Lush at 8:28 AM on May 16, 2005


I like, and use, Palatino. For the math font, Euler is fantastic. (Maybe you don't have a "math font" but for those who do, try \usepackage{euler}!)
posted by Aknaton at 8:34 AM on May 16, 2005


Centaur is very nice, though perhaps not professional enough--a little more stylized than Garamond.
posted by Jeanne at 8:38 AM on May 16, 2005


I'm partial to Minion Pro for body text and Myriad Pro for heds.
posted by docgonzo at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2005


Another vote for Garamond. And I know the feeling...I vacillated for some time when I was pulling my thesis together. Finally settled on Garamond mere minutes before rushing to the printer the day it was due. It was the right choice.

I guess, though, that your field of study might influence your choice.... I was finishing up an MFA in poetry. My friend, on the other hand, is working on a dissertation in statistics, and he'll likely choose something with a little more heft.

On preview: What Aknaton said. Goudy Old Style is the other font I was thinking about when I was working on my thesis. For me, in the end, I found Garamond a little more subtle.
posted by kortez at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2005


If you have a Mac: Hoefler Text. (Actually, I recommend that font even if you don't have a Mac, but if you have a Mac it's already installed.)

I also like Optima, which sort of looks like it has serifs but doesn't actually. It is a bit dated, and not quite dated enough to be classic, unfortunately, so I'm not sure I'd go for it.
posted by kindall at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2005


Baskerville!

I used it several times this semester, with Futura for headings. Looks very sharp!
posted by medpt at 9:38 AM on May 16, 2005


Another vote for Garamond.
posted by misterbrandt at 9:39 AM on May 16, 2005


To anyone who suggested a sans-serif typeface: never post answers on design again, as it's pretty clear you have no idea what you're talking about.

Amelliferae: take a serious look at Garamond, Palatino, Centaur/Arrighi, Minion, and Perpetua. Any of these will do well. Palatino is getting kind of old and busted, though, and Times New Roman is for high school kids and people who use Arial.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2005


The thing about Palatino, to me, is that you have to bump it up a size or two to really see its beauty. If that's not an option, then Garamond's a good way to go.

As a gag, though, it'd be awesome to print up a version with one of these fonts!

BTW, good luck defending, and all that!
posted by kimota at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2005


Thanks so much for all your suggestions. I will definitely reconsider Garamond and Goudy Old Style, but right now I'm leaning toward Palatino. I have spent so much time lately reading other people's theses, and I was struck that they were all in Times New Roman (except for one in Courier New).
posted by amelliferae at 10:39 AM on May 16, 2005


I'd stick with Garamond; Adobe's new pro version is really terrific. Also, all of the Caslon bookfaces are excellent for this sort of work.

I think Palatino, as someone else suggested, is just too subtle and has too much detail for small settings. And I realize the debate about this rages on, but sans serif faces are just not appropriate for long, continuous settings. Usually.

Times is great for the Times. And there is, actually, a Times that includes OsF and smallcaps, which I wish were bundled instead of the crummy version you get with most operating systems.

I am a very big fan of Mark van Bronkhorst's Verdigris (mvbfonts.com) - it's not overly expensive and I guarantee you'll be using it for many, many things for many years.
posted by luriete at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2005


Yet another vote for Garamond.

And in regards to the serif/sans-serif thing, I always thought the rule of thumb was sans-serif for computer screens (because the intricices of the serifs are lost or look like crap on a monitor) and serif for printed materials (because the serifs look damn nice and help your eyes form "word shapes" from the letters -- that is, that you can glance at the word "hope" and your brain says "that's the word hope" without having to read each letter).
posted by blueberry at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2005


Some extra considerations.. The nice thing about Times is that it sets really, really tight. Printing in Times often saves 10% of pages vs. setting in, say, Palatino. Very handy when you're trying to get under a page limit (and very unhandy if you're trying to pad). Also, your font better not call attention to itself. If your readers are thinking "wow, what's that font?", you picked the wrong font.
posted by Nelson at 12:30 PM on May 16, 2005


Another vote for Garamond. As an added bonus, it takes up less space than Times New Roman. I use it on my resume because it reproduces well on copiers and fax machines, and you can fit a lot of copy on a page without looking like you're smashing text together.
posted by hamster at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2005


As a designer, I'll fourth or fifth Garamond. Use a light weight for your main copy, and a heaver weight for any headings or specially formatted text.

Set your type to no bigger than 10pt for body copy (unless you're trying to read if from 5 feet away) and bump up the leading (line spacing) in Word a 'smidge. Not double spaced for sure, but just a hair more than the default setting. Something like 1.2 or so.
posted by FearTormento at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2005


Adobe Garamond.
posted by geoff. at 2:16 PM on May 16, 2005


Times New Roman is for high school kids and people who use Arial

This is ridiculous advice. It's a master's thesis, not a design project. There are, for better or worse, conventions that should be followed, even if the reasons for the conventions are outmoded or unclear. I'm sure 'classic' is to disuade you from using something like Comic Sans. I would say that the more conservative the font the better. My university required Times New Roman for my MA thesis, but if that is going to drive you crazy, I would go with Garamond.
posted by drobot at 2:37 PM on May 16, 2005


Computer Modern. This font makes you look very hardcore, because it implies that you used LaTeX to draft your paper.

"These fonts are never going to change again." - D. E. Knuth

You can't get that sort of guarantee with any other font.
posted by breath at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2005


The Computer Modern fonts are also ugly as sin. But yeah, they're good for impressing mathematicians with. Will any mathematicians be reading your thesis?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2005


The answer is: Sabon. It is a beautiful and very readable typeface. There are some good samples of Sabon, and of other "classic" faces, here.
posted by josh at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2005


Garamond or Palatino or Computer Modern are all fine. But then so is Times New Roman, and any time you were going to spend fussing with fonts and repagination and similar stuff is time that's better spent taking another pass through the thesis for content and grammar.

Nobody but you will care what font it's in, so long as it's not in Comic Sans, one of those handwriting fonts, or something 36 point and green. If you don't like TNR, then pick the first font that seems okay, but stick with it and don't allow yourself to keep changing it. The Time-Suck Monster lurks down that hallway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:16 PM on May 16, 2005


Garamond, baby! The gorgeous italicized z and the crossed bridge in the W stop me in my tracks every time. (But in a good way! Not in a pull-me-out-of-the-text way!)
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:07 PM on May 16, 2005


FYI: Garamond 12.5pt = TNR 12 pt

I've learned this through my college career because I love Garamond, but it's a smaller font. Just up the size by a half and your paper is just as long. And no one knows the difference.
posted by BradNelson at 5:11 PM on May 16, 2005


I appear to be the only person in the world who likes Times Roman.

I guess that invalidates any advice I could give.

I have a degree in typographic design. I recall that no-one in the fine arts school was very interested in using Times either. Ah well. Guess it's unanimous then. Maybe you should take a look at Perpetua.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:30 AM on May 17, 2005


It's a bit late for extra advice here, but I find that TNR's super short ascenders and descenders make it look pretty inelegant, is all.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2005


Metafilter: Passionate about fonts.
posted by LarryC at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2005


« Older Chris Morris' Blue Jam   |   Fame, puts you there where things are hollow Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.