Dissertation fonts
May 17, 2008 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on my dissertation and looking for suggestions for fonts that will compliment each other well. The dissertation will be primarily in English, with substantial amounts of quoted German text, a fair bit of French, and occasional epigraphs or isolated words of polytonic Greek.

My font needs are a body font (probably serif), a heading font (probably sans-serif), a polytonic Greek font (if not part of the other two) and a Blackletter font for fancy German text (e.g., epigraphs). My university does not restrict my choice of fonts beyond saying that the body font must be "readable" (i.e., no Comic Sans).

I love Garamond fonts and I recently acquired a copy of the Garamond Premier Pro Opticals set by Adobe, so I would like to use that font for most of the actual text, including Greek in the body of the dissertation. However, I would be willing to consider a different font if a different body font will cohere much better with the other fonts I will be using.

I am required to submit the dissertation to Proquest/UMI electronically, so there is a good likelihood of the dissertation being read on screen in addition to in print; hence, font choices that are reasonably pleasant to read both in print and on screen are preferable.

Finally, as I am a graduate student, cost is an issue; however, I am willing to pay for a font if it is truly exceptionally designed and meets my needs well.
posted by philosophygeek to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine turned me on to Gentium a while back. It's so pretty. (I think it's the font used for the IPA, so it probably supports a wide range of characters.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2008

While Garamond looks elegant, I think it is a bit harder to read than many typefaces because the x-height is so low. I like Minion, and it appears to have polytonic Greek glyphs.
posted by grouse at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2008

If you're looking for a family of fonts with latin and greek alphabets, suitable for polytonic greek text here's two popular choices :

The MgOpen family

Disclaimer: IANA typography geek. Fonts not guaranteed to meet the approval of the Typesetting Aesthetic Authorities; use at your own risk.
posted by ghost of a past number at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2008

Here are the ProQuest/UMI guidelines for producing the final pdf of your dissertation. They don't make specific font recommendations (they're collecting dissertations from hundreds of institutions that have their own guidelines), but they do have things to say about embedding your font(s) in the final pdf that seem pertinent to the decision you're making.
posted by gum at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2008

I second Gentium -- it has all of the characters you need, looks nice, and is free.
posted by camcgee at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for the suggestions thus far. What would be a good san-serif font to compliment Garamond, Minion, or Gentium (the suggestions thus far without paired sans versions)? Also, any suggestions for a Blackletter German font that would go well with one of those styles would still be appreciated.
posted by philosophygeek at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2008

If you're at the planning or early writing stage, it might be better to be concentrating on using consistent style sheets in your dissertation. That way, you can switch fonts quickly and consistently throughout the document, and preview the results quickly. By doing this, your word processor might even do the right thing with each of English, French, German, and Greek's typographical conventions and hyphenation rules.

Unless authentic period German typography is required, I'd avoid fraktur. Not merely is it hard to read, but it needs some fiddly ligatures to be done right, and otherwise comes out looking a little, well, metal.
posted by scruss at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2008

Spending time choosing fonts is not productive work, and is one of the absolutely classic time-wastes of graduate students that make advisors beat their heads into the wall.

The probability that anyone but you and your committee will ever read your dissertation in its form as a dissertation is very low, and your dissertation will look like shit no matter what fonts you choose because the required formatting is functional, not aesthetic.

The probability that anyone but you will care in the slightest what fonts are in the dissertation is exactly zero.

My recommendation: whatever the defaults are in your software. Times New Roman or Computer Modern or whatever, with whatever is the most immediately, easily available font for Greek. Alternately, whatever it's in now. It is of no consequence whether the fonts "cohere." It is of consequence whether the text coheres. So stop fucking around and get back to real work.

If you work your dissertation into a book, then have discussions with the production editors about font choices.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 AM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding ROU_Xenophobe. Obviously fancy fonts could be seen as indicating that you don't have a good grasp of what is important. The inevitable mistakes might be weighted more heavily "They spent time on fancy fonts and not on ...."

Neat presentation is quite sufficient.

A rude description of the whole PhD process is that is a test to see if you are "one of us" (sorry to discount the huge academic effort you have put in). Presenting a dissertation that looks visually different is the wrong way to blend into the club.
posted by Idcoytco at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2008

It's likely that your school has restrictions on fonts, margins, spacing, and more. I'd check that our before putting effort into your selection.
posted by about_time at 4:08 AM on May 18, 2008

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