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First, a salute and a thank-you to the folks who dug up those studies on font
readability. Splendid work.
Second, a note on sans serif typefaces. Engineering personnel seem to like
them even here in the Far East, so the phenomenon seems unrelated to any
trend in North American first-grade schoolbook design. Here are my guesses as
to why sans serif appeals to technical people:
- It has a clean, geometric, no-nonsense look.
- It is often used in spec sheets, especially IC specs. These are often done
in small print and contain short passages of running text separated by
numerous tables and diagrams. The uniform and relatively thick strokes of
most sans serif faces definitely improve the readability of small print;
tables and diagrams are often done in sans serif outside of technical
fields as well; and in technical specs everything is of equal importance,
so often the same font or closely related fonts will be used throughout.
An engineer-turned-writer whom I worked with did all his manuals in a large
sans serif font. His audience consisted entirely of programmers and hardware
engineers, and maybe they liked it. Can't say I did.
Third (bet you forgot we're counting; I almost did), a word on monospaced
fonts. I think few people would disagree if I say Courier is the pits. IMHO,
Prestige, Elite and Letter Gothic are more appealing, and worth looking for.
I once had a cartridge (for a Canon) containing a version of Elite that I
liked better than some of the proportional fonts I've had to work with.
Letter Gothic is reasonably close to the fonts generated by some video cards
for PC-type machines, and it looks better on paper than they do on the screen
(the ones I'm thinking of have hooked l's, like HP's "line printer" font).
(If you use WordPassable and an HP LJ 4L, make sure kerning is off for Letter
Gothic. The setting isn't supposed to affect monospaced fonts, and it doesn't
affect Courier, but with the HP LJ 4L driver it does affect Letter Gothic.)
And with that I bid you all a font farewell.... Dan Strychalski
dski -at- cameonet -dot- cameo -dot- com -dot- tw