Documents set for success 3 Fonts

Set up your documents for success: getting fancy with fonts

posted in: Editing | 0

In the last couple of blog posts I’ve looked at using the various options on the Page Layout tab to set up your new document. This week I’m having a look at fonts. The options are easy to find on the Home tab in the ribbon, that’s the second tab along from the left or by right clicking the mouse.

First up: favourite fonts

If you’re writing an academic essay or a journal article then it’s best to check if the institution or publisher has any specific requirements about font style and size. In the version of Word that I’m using (2013) the default font – the one that will appear on your document unless you change it – is Calibri, a nice plain sans serif font, in 11 pt size. The fonts I see in use on a daily basis are Calibri, Cambria, Arial and perhaps the all-time favourite, Times New Roman. If you are writing any type of academic or formal document then it’s best to stick to one of these, or something very similar. Of course, you can achieve lots of different effects with the enormous range of fonts available in Word, but it’s generally agreed that in serious writing it’s best to steer clear of some of the more unusual ones. They might create an impression, but you want to draw attention to your writing for the right reasons: content and quality. However, I do have to confess that for a charity where I manage social media we use comic sans for everything!

Changing the default is easy

Changing the font style and size
Changing the font style and size

So, if you’re straying off the default track, pick a font – and a sensible size, either 11 or 12 pt. I’d suggest, if you’re writing a legal essay with footnotes or lots of quotes, where you need to use a smaller font size, that you select 12 pt for the main text and 10 pt for the displayed quotes (I’ll cover those in a week or so) and the footnotes. Changing the style is easy. You can either click on the font and size boxes displayed in the ribbon or click the little arrow on the bottom right-hand side and use the drop-down dialog box to add more detail. And it’s here that you can set your chosen style as the default for your document by clicking the bottom left-hand box.

Trouble-shooting fonts

Font too close or too wide
Trouble shooting fonts

These instructions might seem rather basic, but you’d be surprised at the number of times I’m sent documents where the fonts are inconsistent throughout the text – even in the same paragraph sometimes, or a few words in a smaller size or different style have slipped in. This usually happens when a document is compiled by cutting and pasting smaller pieces of writing, or extra sentences are pasted in, often by different authors. This is something that your proofreader will be on the look-out for, but important to bear in mind if you are checking the document yourself. If you find some inconsistency in the sizing or styling within one paragraph or indeed a whole document, sometimes the easiest solution is to highlight the whole section using Ctrl+A and then pick the correct style and size in the ribbon.

Recently, a client asked me to sort out a document that they felt ‘didn’t look quite right’. The letters all appeared to be squeezed up and several lines looked different to the rest of the writing. If you notice this problem, or perhaps the letters in the words appear too spread out, have a quick look at the ‘advanced’ tab of the dialog box. You shouldn’t normally need to worry about the options here, but problems of squashed or spread out letters can often be solved by making sure that the character spacing is set at normal. For general documents there should be no need to change any of the standard settings on the advanced tab.

I hope these few tips will be helpful. If you have any questions, need some help proofreading or editing your writing, or just want to let me know what’s your favourite font and why, leave a comment below.

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