Fonts, Page Design and Publishing

I was just reading Rudy Rucker’s blog post today about his efforts to find the right font for his forthcoming self-published novel The Big Aha, and was Free Fontsstirred by this paragraph about fonts,  page design and reading:

Getting back to my rant about font design—one bad thing that that can happen is, I think, that a book or (more often) a web page might be designed by someone who doesn’t actually read.. They want to be different and cool and hardcore and they don’t actually like text. So—they go with 9 point Arial beige type on a brown background.

I wonder if this is true about web designers or other non-text-oriented types. Many of the commercial clients I write for aren’t text- or design-oriented, until I try to diverge from their preferred Calibri text, and write a document that fits with the product being sold. I’ve had email flame wars with my clients over fonts; I actually like bolder serif fonts for the main body of the text, but sans serif fonts seem preferred for online reading, and my clients presume the final documents will be read online and not printed out.

Are, generally speaking, most people reading business documents, or for that matter other online content, not readers? Does font matter to you? Do you consider the nature of readability over legibility? What do you prefer, serif or sans-serif fonts?

Is the sans-serif font of this page readable?




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Writing and Selling Magazine Articles

Thursday evening I headed to my local library to hear a talk by Ray Bronk, a freelance writer in these parts (Central Texas). Serving as host was the San Gabriel Writer’s League.

Bronk’s speciality is wildlife writing and he’s published in national magazines including Field & Stream, Camping & RV, and American Hunting.

He outlined some basics that included caveats as well as encouraging secrets to success as a freelancer:

  • You have chosen a difficult writing genre
  • In you write the manuscript first you will fail
  • Quality must remain high
  • Anybody can qualify, sex, age, abilities
  • Manuscript vs. query letters
  • Read the magazine
  • Put yourself in the editor’s chair
  • You are needed
  • You can predict needs
  • Don’t give up your day job

While some of the advice can be found in most articles or advice books on magazine writing, I liked getting a firsthand account from someone with a lot of experience.

One particular piece of advice — to query first before writing — has been on my mind lately, because I’ve been noodling around with several ideas, and I want to rush to get started, before I have any idea what to really write. Queries, Bronk said, were as important to your success as a freelance as your skill as a writer.

Other advice that he offered:

  • Write things that interest you
  • Write for free to get experience and clips
  • Nurture and protect your relationships with editors
  • Think ahead
  • Study the magazine, looking for length and type of articles
  • Go to writing classes