What's wrong with Times New Roman? Nothing much, really.

Subject: What's wrong with Times New Roman? Nothing much, really.
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Technical Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, David Downing <david -dot- downing -at- Fiserv -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2009 09:43:46 -0400

David Downing wondered: <<What's wrong with just regular Times, which
is what we use for body test?>>

Like fraternal twins, Times and Times New Roman are clearly
recognizable as family members, but are not identical twins. I find
TNR slightly more readable on the screen, and slightly less cramped on
the printed page, but that's a purely personal opinion. It's also
worth noting that "Times" traditionally meant Adobe's postscript font
or any of several postscript or Truetype kin, and these fonts are not
necessarily available on all computers. In contrast, TNR is available
on all Windows and Mac computers, and probably on all Unix and Linux
computers too (haven't checked). That cross-platform support is an
important asset when you're transferring files between computers. (Ask
me some time about the travails I have dealing with the font choices
of my Chinese and Japanese clients.)

Chiming in late here, but the debate over "best" fonts entirely misses
the point: most fonts designed for use as body text are acceptably
legible and readable at appropriate point sizes, and if they're
typeset competently, differences in perceived legibility boil down
largely to personal preference, not practically significant
differences. I find TNR optimally readable, but not because it's
inherently superior to other fonts -- the real reason is that I spend
8+ hours per day reading this font (it's required by most journals,
and I edit primarily for journals) and therefore am so accustomed to
the font that other fonts appear more difficult to read. That has
nothing to do with their inherent legibility.

All typographic studies that I've seen (and I've read a great many
over the years) show few practical differences in the legibility of
different fonts, with the important caveat that the fonts must be
typeset competently to achieve comparable and optimal legibility and
that the fonts must be designed primarily for reading, not
ornamentation. I'm not aware of any studies that have been performed
under these conditions, or that have been performed for long enough
durations to reveal the effect of familiarity with a font. As purely
anecdotal evidence, I offer the fact that when I must edit sans serif
text, my productivity drops by a good 20% during the first hour or so,
and returns to nearly 100% after a few hours of getting familiar with
the font. YMMV, but I'll bet that if you test this, you'll get similar

Geoff Hart (www.geoff-hart.com)
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Re: What's wrong with Times New Roman?: From: Downing, David

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