February 6, 2013

Font And You: The Style-Memoir

This blog comes from the great and powerful LaTanya McQueen. 

What Your Font Choices Say About You/Your Writing:

Arial/Helvetica: The  Wal-Mart of fonts, you are everywhere and yet somehow instantly forgettable.  Your heart clammers for attention and you find yourself screaming to be noticed. You have a tendency to make exclamatory, all-caps statements consisting of few words in your stories. We try to read on but it’s difficult not to get the impression that you’re screaming at us, that you are somewhere far away waving a fist high in the air, your face flustered and boiling red, and are yelling at us for all the things you imagine we’ve done wrong.

Baskerville: You have an English (or Irish) Setter that currently sits at your feet. You are probably wearing a tweed jacket with arm patches and are smoking a pipe. Crumpet crumbs spill out between the pages of your manuscript. It is a whodunit, a Sherlock Holmes rip-off, but it keeps us interested anyway. We read and imagine ourselves walking down the dark London streets and trying to solve the mystery. Who is the killer? Will Jackson (there is no Watson) help us? We get to the last page, by this point we’re on the brink of our seats with anticipation, only to realize that the last page is unfinished. There is only a note explaining your manuscript is a series and would we like for you to send the rest?

Chalkboard: You are between the ages of 5-10. Your teacher has told you that you are talented and rightly so because you are at the top of the accelerated reader club, having read more books than anyone. There is probably a picture included with your stories and poems. It will be of flowers, most likely sunflowers or tulips (easiest to draw). We will secretly take the picture home with us and hang it on our fridges, a reminder to us of the dreams of our youth.

Comic Sans: You ponder questions like: If I tell a joke in an empty room and no one hears it to laugh, does that mean it’s not funny? So you laugh at your own jokes, even when you’re alone, just in case. You’ve heard of the phrase “The world is your oyster” but to you, “The world is your banana peel.”  In real conversations with friends, you say “LOL,” not pronouncing each letter but attempting to say the word. “Lol!” you respond to a joke. “Lol, lol, lol.”

The joke, however, is on you. It is always on you. You are a sad clown in a room full of grown ups desperately wanting to make us feel, to shed our guarded sophistication, and to laugh. Sadly though, we do, but it is never at your jokes.

Courier/Courier New: You are our parents and grandparents writing your life’s story in the basement of your house during the early morning hours. You write about the time when you fought in Vietnam and the love you left there. A few months ago you stumbled again upon an old photograph you kept of her, a photo that sparked your desire to tell the story, partly in the hopes of finding her but also to redeem yourself for leaving.

We’ll try hard to look past appearances, to venture deep into the heart of your story, and there will be occasions where it will move us, where it will remind us of the losses of our lives, our own heartbreaks and tragedies, but most of the time we’ll read and feel as though it belongs to a different time, a different era, and we’ll find a way to move on.

Times/Times New Roman: You are just like everyone else. You’ve conformed to the standards and expectations that have been asked. You are no better or no worse than others. You’ve written something we’ve read hundreds of times before, whether it be about a broken marriage, or the loss of a child, or cancer. There is nothing distinguishable about you.

That’s what first impressions tell us.

However, underneath the surface is a burning furnace of desire. You know how to break hearts, can bring others to tears. “Don’t stop,” are the words you make us say as you pull us forward with your words. No, we don’t want to stop, despite life’s obligations nagging us in our mind’s periphery. You make us want only you, despite so many others calling our names, so many others waiting to command our attention.

But then there are instances where we’ll read and we have no interest in what you have to say. The cancer story or the death of a child story really is doing nothing more than we’ve seen a hundred times before. We are bored and full of pity. We merely want to move on, forget the words now lodged in our memory.  Your work is a festering turd of despair.

Either/Or. The point though is the font make us delve past the surface to find out.

Papyrus: You so desperately want to be unique, to be different from the crowd. Right now you are on the verge of a sort of existential crisis. Who are you really? You don’t know, perhaps have never had the time to figure it out. You hope to disguise all this. You are like Lester in American Beauty, except instead of working at a fast food restaurant you took your life savings and opened a tarot/herbal remedies store that no one frequents. You sit in the back room and type on the little Dell computer you bought. This will be your chance, you think. All great beginnings start here. This will be the way you make your mark.

Perpetua/Garamond/Cochin: You believe you are brilliant and you let everyone know it too. All. The. Time. We hate you secretly. We hate how you seem to be so infatuated with your own words, and you are—with not just how they sound but also how they look on the page. Don’t they look oh so pretty? Don’t they look so heartbreakingly beautiful? The exquisiteness fills you with tears as you sit crafting your sentences. Sentences, it is important to mention, and not stories. You are too concerned with imagery, with symbolism and language. “What is the story here?” your old English professor used to ask you, but what did that hack know? Nothing, how could he! Those who can’t do, teach, and what did he ever do with his life? What art did he ever create?

There are always cicadas (never locusts. Why not locusts?!) in your stories.


You are Charlie Brown’s Teacher.

(You are Charlie Brown’s Teacher.)



About Alison Balaskovits

A. A. Balaskovits is a Ph.D. student in Fiction at the University of Missouri and the curator of the Literature on Lockdown series for The Missouri Review. You can follow her on twitter @aabalaskovits or at aabalaskovits.com

9 Responses to Font And You: The Style-Memoir

  1. Allena Tapia says:

    Funny. BUT, I read research that said documents written in Baskerville are taken a bit more seriously than many, many other fonts. Which (kind of) lines up with what you say about it:)

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  4. Brad Hart says:

    Courier is the font of professionals who want the closest thing they can get to what the page of their book will actually look like.

  5. J Koch says:

    Manuscripts are one thing, but if I’m doing a project, that’s another. Depending on the size of the project (a multi-page newsletter or a single flyer) I like to mix fonts, but not too many, perhaps two to four. The formality of the project or issue will dictate font choice to some degree: more formal–Times New Roman & Courier, more casual–Andy, Comic Sans.

  6. Lisa says:

    Calibri! What about Calibri!

  7. Sandra Bowers says:

    Spelling is more telling than a font. Aren’t “clammers” folks on the beach digging up clams? Whereas “clamors” is the racket a crowd of people make when they want more or less of something. What a grotesque little error.

    • LaTanya McQueen says:


      Thank you for pointing out my mistake!
      (Also, in case people haven’t figured this out yet, this blog post was a joke, none of it meant to be taken seriously.)


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