mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

A Font of Information

Recently, sleigh made a post titled Let's give this message to the Courier..., in which he brought up the question of how necessary it is to use the Courier font when submitting manuscripts. His post was in response to queenoftheskies, who asked similar questions in her post Ask a Stupid Question.... (Her post was more about formatting a synopsis, but the question of what font to use quickly came up.)

sleigh noted that he never uses Courier, and that it's never been a problem for him as far as he knew. Now, I always use Courier, and happen to love it, but the question got me thinking. Do editors still expect and require manuscripts to be in Courier font? Eleven years ago, when I attended Clarion, I remember Damon Knight insisting over and over that manuscripts had to be in Courier, and he admonished anyone who used a different typeface. Well, times do change, so I thought I would see what two of the major science fiction markets had to say on the question.

I checked both the Analog Submission Guidelines and the Asimov's Submission Guidelines. Neither had a lot to say on the subject. The Analog guidelines had only one comment: "Please avoid unusual or very small typefaces." The Asimov's guidelines said nothing at all.

So, as a public service to you, my readers, I went straight to the sources and asked the editors directly.

Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov's, said quite simply, "I don't care about the font, as long as it's easy to read."

Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog, had a little more to say:

I have no strict requirements about font and would not reject anything just because of its font shape or size. However, I think most editors would agree that we spend so much time reading that we want it to be easy on our eyes, and a font that calls too much attention to itself calls attention away from the story. So 9- or 36-point anything, or script or German Fraktur of any size, encourages attention to wander faster than something really easy and unremarkable like 12-point Courier or Times—unless, of course, the story is a really extraordinary grabber.

I use one or the other of those fonts in most of my own manuscripts, and so do most of our regular contributors. I have no strong preference between them; some editors prefer Courier because, being nonproportional, it facilitates making their own estimates of word count. On the other hand, Times makes it easier to type a dash that looks like a dash instead of one or two hyphens. Neither of those arguments seems especially compelling to me; I'll cheerfully accept manuscripts in either of those fonts or anything reasonably similar.

So there you have it. I must admit that I will probably still advise aspiring writers to use Courier, at least in the beginning, because it does have a professional feel to it. But it looks like the Courier walls have either started to come tumbling down or are already lying in ruins at our feet.
Tags: writing-advice
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