TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Font Peeves From:Kimberly Lyle-Wilson <klylewilson -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 6 Feb 1998 12:06:00 PST
Bruce Byfield wrote:
>I don't know: that implies that people actually make a choice. I >think
Times and Arial are used simply because they're available, and >because
so many products default to them.
>Which reminds me: many people who doesn't study typography claim that
>it doesn't matter. For instance, at several companies, I've been told
>not to worry about typography or layout: what the company needed was
>the facts. Yet, in every case, when I (unable to resist the Demon
>Font) spend a little time on some basic layout, the first response in
>my reviews was how inviting the manuals looked,
I hate using TNR and Arial personally because they're so darn boring. (I
hate Palatino even more.) But my personal preference isn't really the
issue when I'm producing manuals. I think the manual needs to be laid
out in a way to emphasize the content and organization of the material.
Using uncommon fonts may produce a really sharp look, but it can
distract the reader. Suddenly they're noticing the cool font and the
neat titles and the content goes unnoticed.
Bruce brings up a good point, though, about how employers are pleased
with decent design. One of my recent assignments was to update a group
of Word templates and make them "prettier." By that, the company meant
nicer, more professional layout. I didn't even produce text for that
job. (I still used TNR, though.)
In most of my documentation (user manuals for in-house software) I stick
with TNR because it's fairly readable and "universal" - that is, when
someone else needs to update my work in three years, this font will
still be around and printable, and the work won't look particularly
For other kinds of work (especially the type and design work I do for my
graphics design business) I use all kinds of other fonts and try to
achieve a special "look and feel" for the job at hand. This is sometimes
hip, sometimes solid, sometimes nerdy, sometimes retro art-deco...meant
to appeal to a particular audience or demographics, etc. Creative use of
type is perfectly acceptable for these kinds of jobs, but not so much
for technical manuals, IMO.