How fonts help (and hinder) your writing

Your academic outfit is a big deal.  Every element related to learning impacts upon you in some way:

  • Time of day;
  • Location;
  • Lighting;
  • Output method (pen & paper, laptop, etc.);
  • Ambient sound;
  • Music (or lack of);
  • Disturbances;
  • Company;
  • And so on.

I give my study setup a lot of consideration and have always been aware of how my attitude changes, depending on my circumstances.

It seems that I overlooked one important element that alters perspective on productivity…Fonts.

photo by vial3tt3r

photo by vial3tt3r

Fonts, the styles of writing you see on screen and on the printed page, are not only useful for layout and pretty structure.  They have another special power.

Your workflow and approach changes greatly depending on the font you use on screen. Fonts bring a new dimension to your writing.

This all came about when I read about the different printing costs between different fonts.  The most efficient font is apparently Century Gothic.  And, as Ampercent mentions, “The more pleasing a font looks at the screen, the less tempted someone will be to print it.  This will save both ink and paper”.

In which case, you should be able to take the logic further to aid study.

When reading, different fonts alter effectiveness and motivation, leading the reader to believe something is more difficult than it really is.

Therefore, your own engagement with text as you type probably makes an impact.

The more pleasing a font looks on screen, you’d hope it would help your own output too.  As you type, you watch the text appear on screen.  You’re engaging with the text.  You’re creating.

Until recently, I didn’t try using different fonts to see if they made a difference to my writing.  But once I changed font to Century Gothic for printing purposes, I noticed a change in how I viewed the text.

After some (still ongoing) experimentation with different fonts, I found that my workflow changed.  Sometimes I wanted to write more and more and more and…

Depending on the typeface, the text suddenly let me open up further with ease.  Even on work that I considered complete.  Quite an eye opener.

I’m amazed I didn’t pay much attention to font use for productivity in the past.  It’s not like I’ve ignored fonts.  Yet I didn’t ever think far enough to imagine a simple change of font could noticeably change my relationship with the text on screen.  Neither did I think certain fonts would let me tap away at the keyboard and enjoy the writing process more.

If you haven’t got enough fonts, or want to experiment with a wider range, a good place to start is Addictive Fonts.  The site showcases all sorts, including:

That should be plenty to be getting on with.  I’m sure that the most effective fonts differ from person to person, so find out what works best for you and enjoy!

I’m curious.  How affected are you by fonts?

5 comments

  1. I am passionate about fonts but rather limited by technology in what I can use. I do a lot of writing at work and have to use Arial mainly as my employers have strict font rules.

    However, I recently started some creative writing and found that I was being stifled and dull when I used the sans-serif fonts of my workplace. I found that I was much more creative and the words flowed better when writing in Georgia. It was nice because it clearly marked the creative writing from the functional writing I usually do.

    I wish that I’d paid attention to font when I wrote my dissertation. It would’ve been interesting to allocate a particular font to a project and not use it for anything else. It could help focus and maintain interest too.

    1. I like your idea of using a font on a single project. I may steal that idea from you. Thanks! 🙂

      I don’t think we need to be limited with the font we use, even for serious projects to be published. Just remember to change to a more respectable/recognised/standard font when it’s time to set loose.

      It’s great to hear your positive experience working with different typefaces. Thanks for your comment, Rosalind.

  2. I’m just curious — what’s your favourite font to use for schoolwork/being productive? I have found fonts to have an effect on how well I write (papers and such), but sadly…the only ones I’ve experimented with seemed to affect me negatively. What’s your preferred font?

  3. I haven’t noticed this with myself, to be honest, but I guess it does make sense in a way. On the other hand, what you’re observing might also be just a placebo effect.

  4. Hi Kaitlyn & Andrej,

    After playing with a number of different fonts — those I’m familiar with and those new to me — I think variation makes the biggest difference. Using the same font, no matter how interesting it seems at first, soon becomes standard to the eye.

    However, I don’t grow tired of even familiar fonts when I vary usage. I’d say the only fonts to ignore entirely, therefore, are any that you don’t like the look of and/or find difficult to work with from the outset.

    This may be a type of placebo effect, although it seems more the novelty of not having the same typeface day in, day out.

    So fonts seem to make a big difference to creative output, although you’d need far more scientific study to work out if specific fonts are better than others. What I’ve found myself is that variation is positive and something I’ll continue to do.

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