RE: Article: The Secret Of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain AndSimple

Subject: RE: Article: The Secret Of Impressive Writing? Keep It Plain AndSimple
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Lori Olcott" <lori_olcott -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2006 14:07:12 -0400

Lori Olcott said...

> It seems strange that they would lump font with vocabulary. The font
> an aesthetic trait, but word choice is more intellectual. Admittedly,
> both of these can have a perceptive impact on the reader, even before
> subject begins to read the text.
> I wonder what the stats were for simple font/advanced vocabulary and
> complex font/simple vocabulary.

When it comes to reading large text (such as a billboard sign or wall
poster) I'll agree with you about font being a purely "aesthetic"
choice. But when it comes to dense-text documents (newspaper articles,
emails, pages of documentation, text of a legislative bill on a web
site) I'll have to quibble with you. There are numerous readability
studies that indicate font IS a critical choice in helping readers get
through the text.

Of course it does make a difference depending on whether the deliverable
is online or on paper, but the choice of font in an essay, article,
procedure manual, or any other dense document is not a variable that the
writer is free to decide on some sort of purely aesthetic whim. If
anyone doesn't believe that, try writing your next manual in Zapf
Chancery and see what kind of reaction you get. All other factors being
equal, typeface and font size both have a big impact on a reader's
ability to quickly read and easily process the information being

To respond to Lori's query, my guess would be that simple font and
advanced vocabulary would be judged more favorably by readers than would
a complex font and simple vocabulary. I haven't seen the complete
results of the study but if I were a betting man, that's where I'd place
my money.

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