I imagine fear that, if left to their own devices, students choosing ghastly fonts such as Comics Sans, Arial, or Papyrus have led professors to dictate the use of Times New Roman as the preferential font. And I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to read submittals in the most childish, lazy, and hackneyed fonts ever set, either. But why not allow Garamond? Garamond is different.
French punch-cutter Claude Garamond invented the original serif typeset that later became Garamond in the 1540’s, and it was considered one of the highlights of the 16th century. (We’re talking competing with Copernicus, Da Vinci, the graphite pencil, and bottled beer here.)
Serif fonts utilize small decorative flourishes at the end of letter strokes (as opposed to sans serif, which utilize straight lines with no overhangs). Serif fonts make individual letters more distinct–and therefore easier to read–and the brain spends less time identifying letters. The touted Times New Roman of academia is also a serif font, but fades into the paper in comparison to the aesthetically-pleasing Garamond.
While APA style “recommends” Times New Roman, MLA and CMS only ask fonts be legible and readable. Garamond, the most fluid and consistent of all serifs, certainly qualifies. Its unique blend of personality, style, and professionalism are an added bonus to its merits.
Garamond is also the most eco-friendly font, using the least ink per page, as well as white-space placement allowing more characters per page. And it keeps good company–Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling chose it. The Hunger Games and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern also use it, with Editor Dave Eggers claiming it as his favorite font “because it looks good in so many permutations—italics, small caps, all caps, tracked out, justified or not.”
But instead, students are asked to use Garamond’s insipid, younger half-brother, Times New Roman. Showing up in 1931 and originally created for the Times of London, Times New Roman’s claims to fame are adoption by Microsoft products, and exclusive use by the U.S. Department of State. Much less inspirational.
So I say, be the change. Scroll through your fonts, select Garamond, and set the default. Open your printed pages to over 500 years of class and sophistication. Don’t let The Man keep you droll through convention… choose Garamond!