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First, let me thank you for taking the time to write a very detailed
response to my question. It gave me some things to think about and with the
information that you provided, I was able to not only provide a response to
the person who asked me the question about fonts, but also to reevaluate the
fonts I'd planned to use for my own style guide.
A couple of responses:
>While there are no standards, I personally opt for high
>readability--and I find Times and its many variants not particularly
>good in that regard. ... Thus, if given a preference, for technical
documentation I opt for far
> more open faces. One of the best samples I have seen used a combination
> Stone's Stone Serif and Stone Sans, which while obviously being
> distinct still had sufficient similarity to produce a highly
>consistent and pleasing combination that was at the same time
> extremely easy to read.
This is the first time that I've encountered the Stone Serif and Sans fonts.
It is a really beautiful font. While I probably won't be able to use it in
technical since it would force many of my readers to download it on their
own systems - I definitely want to use it for graphic work. I agree that it
is very easy to read.
> Some of the considerations for maximum readability may also suggest
> considering fonts designed for online use. I would not discard the
> notion simply because the piece may not be intended for that medium.
I agree with this assessment and have actually decided to do this. I've
been in far too many situations where I've had to quickly repurpose text -
sometimes a year or two after it was originally written. It is better to
use a font that can be ported quickly to another format if necessary.
> You should also pay attention to the face used for code examples, if
> you use any. Here, I opt for something very readable in a monospaced
> font designed for code...which distinguishes between the
> often-confused characters such as "I" (capital i) and "1" (number), or
> lower the letter "o" from the zero figure.
Good point. I too do this; it also makes distinguishing between one and two
spaces easier as well.
> I suggest, too, that as you choose the fonts to use that you pay
> particular attention to font size ... One font at a given point size may
appear far larger than another.
> If you have the luxury of space, I also would consider using a
> somewhat larger point size than you may be accustomed to--again for
> maximizing readability. In my printed correspondence, for example, for
> many years I have used eleven or eleven and a half point type as a
> starting place.
Another good point. I've run into this problem in the past when I've used
two fonts on a single page (like a serif and sans-serif). Space is not a
problem. I generally use 11 point for the text depending on the font. I do
have the luxury of space and I might consider a larger font so it makes it a
bit easier on the reader.
> It is true that documents set entirely in sans serif type are
> increasingly common today. However, in many cases that makes them
> harder to read. Too-wide columns, leading which is too small or too
> large, tracking and kerning which is not properly done--all can make
> passages in sans more challenging to read without effort and increase
> the likelihood of misreading.
True - I think one of the reasons is that sans serif feels "new" - there is
something modern about it (to use an antiquated word). I like the mixture
however; it is easier to tell at a glance to classify the type of text. I
was using MS Word exclusively for a while producing a beautiful and usable
text was sometimes a challenge. I usually opted for utility. However, I'm
using Frame now, so I can more closely control kerning, leading and other
settings that help enhance text readability.
> I have mentioned the Lyx document processor before. Since it is based
> upon the TeX typesetting language, even its standard output is
> generally far superior to any normal word processor. However, for tech
> docs, I think it represents a bit too large a learning curve if this
> is the only advantage you seek. For someone writing a dissertation,
> scholarly article, or a math or science textbook or the like, however,
> in my opinion it remains one of the best choices available.
I didn't know that TeX was still in use. I remember it being used back in
the early 90s. (At the time I was working with a lot of mathematicians who
used it.) I agree, the learning curve is too steep for what I'm trying to
> I greatly enjoyed a few projects I did with InDesign, too. The
> incredible control over all aspects of typography was great fun--but
> for those of us who don't do that sort of layout often, it can be
> extraordinarily time-consuming as well.
Unfortunately, we don't have any Adobe products here, with the exception of
PDF and Frame. But I agree - InDesign is a lot of fun to work with. In the
past and was able to design some very nice marketing material with it.
Thanks again for all of your comments - they have been very helpful!
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