Rachel’s How To: Save Face with Typeface



Typeface. Oh, what can I say about typeface. It is much abused and rarely understood. What happens to people when they pull down that font menu? I think they see a box full of unique and dazzling treasures, and then get blinded by the sparkle of promise that each one holds. The continually type written world has lost the art of penmanship almost entirely and even puts phone calls on the back burner when a quick e-mail will successfully avoid all the chit chat. Now, I’m not saying these things are bad, I mean I love e-mail as much as the next girl, but there is something about that beautifully handwritten letter (which seems, now, to only come from my grandmother) that seems to have so much personality. And this brings me to comic sans. I don’t know how it gets translated this way, but people see comic sans and think –that’s my handwriting. Do we all think we write like 3rd graders? Actually, I think people mistakenly see it as innocent and casual. More than a failed attempt to capture the personality of our own handwriting, I think it is truly a matter of us believing that the tone of our e-mails are misheard by their readers. So, we feel as though we have to use a font that will take the edge off, if you will, of our short, to the point sentences. Our other typeface mishaps seem to come when we try and pair a font with a specific theme. Everyone loves that font whose letters are nested inside cute little ornaments. It’s hard to read with all those circles, but it definitely says Christmas. Then we find ourselves thinking– when will I ever get the chance to use this font again? I find myself feeling sorry for these types of fonts because they seem so fit for the occasion, but in execution they tend to look–well, cheap. Most often our goal is not to look cliché or cute, but to convey to our audience (be they friends or coworkers) a mood. More often than not when it comes to typeface the untrained often fail and end up annoying their audience with 16 pt red comic sans in every e-mail. So, to prevent you from being labeled the “crazy comic sans” lady (or guy) here are a few things to ponder.

1. The most important thing in your e-mail is the information you are giving the reader.

No, comic sans does not look like your handwriting, and everyone uses it so it’s certainly not unique to you. Don’t let your typeface (or the color of) talk louder than your e-mail. It is distracting (some would say annoying) to get an e-mail full of smileys or an unusual typeface.

2. With typeface, the devil is in the details.

Serifs being one. Serifs are those little kick outs at the top and bottom of the letters that look like little feet. Fonts without serifs (sans serif) don’t have the little feet and are considered less formal than serif fonts. Serif fonts, however, are easier to read in blocks of text (like books or magazines) because they keep your eye on the line you are reading. A sans serif typeface will lead your eye down the page instead of across because it has no little feet to kick your eye back up to the next word. That being said it doesn’t mean that sans serif should never be used for blocks of text, it’s just a general rule. Don’t go crazy with fonts that have cutesy little curly serifs or large distracting ones.

3. Subtlety is key

When you open your magical box of treasures take a look at those “boring” fonts that you aren’t drawn to. Those are your best bet! I know, it’s hard not to pick Curls because it’s so darn cute and you have a girly personality or you’re having a tea pary, but you could pick a nice serif font that has a bit fatter letter, or one where the stems of the letters are thicker on one side and thinner on the other. These will look equally feminine and be less cliché.

4. But Comic Sans, Curls, Copperplate… is So cute! I know, but resist the temptation to type completely in these fonts.

You can use them, however, in moderation. If you find an appropriate opportunity to use these fonts you may, but only use them as part of the heading. Pick another typeface that is “boring” to go with it for the body of the document.

5. Don’t type in all caps all the time.

All caps (even if it’s a caps and small caps font) means you’re YELLING. Always. So does red. Don’t type your e-mails in red, or pink. E-mails should be in black unless you are a teenage girl, then you have permission to type e-mails in pink or any other color you like. If you are a grown up–don’t.

So, if you want it to look like your handwriting, then write it by hand. Otherwise, choose a font that is clean, simple, and not cliché; it does matter, and your readers will appreciate it!

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