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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 1:59 pm
Me Write Pretty One Day
Posted by: Keir Graff

Back to work after a long weekend in Oklahoma, visiting my wife’s father’s family. I missed this fun Slate piece (“My Favorite Font“) when it came out on Friday. I was a bit surprised to learn that most writers (in this small sample, anyway) prefer to compose in Courier — I write in Times New Roman — but their reasoning compels me to reconsider my position:

Jonathan Lethem: “I dislike the temptation of making a raw draft look like it’s already typeset.”

Nicholson Baker: “The main thing, though, is to use some nonproportional typewriter-style font – you need the sentences to look their worst until the dress rehearsal of the galleys, when all the serifs come out dancing.”

Andrew Vachss: “I write everything in Courier 12, because I write for publication, not pleasure. Since I cannot control the font the (eventual) publisher selects, what do I care how it looks on my screen?”

OK, Vachss sounds a bit cranky. But, having written by hand, on a manual typewriter, on an IBM Selectric, on an AppleĀ 2c, on a generic DOS PC with a daisy-wheel printer, and then finally on an early Mac with pretty fonts and a laser printer (though I’m once again PC these days) — I definitely apprenticed with some pretty plain fonts. The first time I saw my work with serifs (on the Mac) it was exciting because it did look like the work had been published already.

Having read the above quotes, however — especially Lethem’s — I can see that I may have fallen into a trap. Better to make the words read pretty before allowing them to look pretty, perhaps.

(And yes, I’m aware that the preceding sentence reads pretty poorly. I composed it in Times New Roman.)



One Response to “Me Write Pretty One Day”
  1. Dorie Vilardi Says:

    You seem to understand so much. This is a wonderful blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

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