Which font says ‘Serious PhD Research Herein’?

Questions about fonts may seem frivolous, but I don’t think they are. We had a small discussion about this last year in the online chat space allocated to the PhD programme I am part of, and my supervisor posted this great link, explaining, at least in part, why decisions about font styles are not actually trivial.

I am writing my thesis, like just about everything I write these days, in MSWord 2010, which means that everything gets written in Calibri unless otherwise stated. It’s quite a bland font, but it is easy enough to read, and readability is key for me; I don’t want my examiners getting annoyed or put off because they can’t read my text easily. But it doesn’t seem to say ‘PhD’ to me, or ‘serious research that is also a good read’. It just says ‘blah’. ‘Blah’ is not what I want my thesis to say. I suppose I want it to say ‘Ah!’ or something more engaging for the readers. So I have spent the last couple of weeks writing my draft playing with fonts as well. I don’t like Times New Roman as a general rule. I don’t like reading it. Arial also does not look right. So I discarded, quite quickly, the three ‘main’ fonts in which most university students I work with are advised to type. I love Cambria – it makes me happy, and it’s stylish and sophisticated. So currently my thesis is in Cambria. I don’t know if this font says ‘PhD’ either although I feel I am getting closer. I read an article online that says ‘serif’ fonts like Garamond, Times New Roman, Courier and Bookman are easier to read than sans-serif fonts, like Helvetica, Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic and Verdana (see here for more details).  So this supports my feeling that I need a serif font, and these are the ones I generally like. Still, I am biased, and I am waiting for my supervisor to tell me what she thinks, as a reader.

I know this can seem like a frivolous thing to worry about, but as I always tell students in my writing workshops, presentation is very important. This essay or thesis or article is speaking for you when you are not physically there to defend or explain it. What impression do you want people to have when they open it up and start reading? I want to be taken seriously but I also want a font that reflects a bit of ‘me’ on the pages and that my readers find easy on the eyes. I think, for now, Cambria is it, but I am open to suggestions :-).


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