Times New Roman vs. Garamond

I know this is silly, but sometimes I find myself thinking about fonts. I know, too, that I’m not the only one. For, really, why are there so many? And why do so many books have “a note about the font” at the back?

I used to write everything in Palomino. I thought it was a beautiful font. Then, at some point a few years ago, its very beauty became offensive and shameful to me: a sign of my dilettantism, yet another indication that I would never get my book done. I switched to Times and, occasionally Times New Roman. I cannot tell the difference. Both are fine, functional typefaces and I like them for the way they pass, on the printed page, almost unnoted. But the reign of austerity could not continue forever. When I taught my first graduate class on modernism in 1999 or so, I wanted the posters advertising my class to be as pretty as those of my colleagues, both Victorianists. But I needed, too, for my work to look modern, to look new. I found Skia, a lovely, squat sans-serif font that has a look of the twenties about it. I continue to use Skia in my teaching from time to time.

But I stuck with Times for my writing life. There, I needed to be ramrod-straight, serious, intellectual, and uncompromising until the book came out.

Well, the book is out. Where does that leave me?

Rudderless, of course, and amazed to find that I am free to do what I have always been free to do: abandon Times. I am working on a new project, an edition of Mrs. Dalloway, and, to do it, I need an electronic copy of the novel. Someone in duplicating services scanned it into Word for me, after much grumbling, and now I am laboriously correcting the scan. I need an exact copy of the book--what was on page 23 will be in my word document on page 23, with all the same dashes, hyphens, etc. This means that I will have--and need to have--lots and lots of white space surrounding the text. It turns out that Garamond lets me do this really well. And what a lovely font! Elegant and old-fashioned without looking Victorian, it pleases me.

Looking at it, day after day, I realized that I could easily turn my back on Times forever, should I so choose. I’m writing this in Georgia now. It’s lovely for writing: round and bold, easy to read (Garamond can be hard on the eyes when reading a screen), but with a little more personality than bland old Times.

Still, when I have to write something official, I will return to Times, I think.