7 Writers on How Their Go-to Fonts Make Them Feel

How do you want to write today: smart, noble, or Gutenberg-y?

The writing process is nothing without meaningless rituals. For some, it’s waking up at the crack of dawn to work in solace before the rest of the world rises. For others, it’s laying on the shower floor until the good idea comes. The one thing that unites all writers, no matter the medium, is that they’ve got to put pen to paper (or more likely, fingers to keyboard) eventually.

And when they do? Let’s just say it can take many different forms. Not everyone types in Google Docs’ default font. And not everyone believes Baskerville is the path to trustfulness. For proof, we asked a handful of writers about their typographic preferences. Here’s what they had to say.

Oren Uziel: Courier

Screenwriter of Shimmer Lake and 22 Jump Street

I write in Courier. All screenwriters write in Courier. Partly because it’s supposed to mimic what text looked like coming out of a typewriter (romantic!), but mostly so that all of our scripts have a standard, measurable length, thus making it easier to guesstimate how long the resulting movie will be.

This is sort of boring, but also sort of appealing in that it’s one less thing for a screenwriter to worry about, like deciding what to wear in the morning or being sexually attractive. But I suppose anyone coming to a website where writers discuss their favorite typefaces gave up on all that a long, long time ago.

Margaret Rhodes: Arial, 10 pt.

Editor at New York Magazine

I don’t remember when the shift took place, but at some point a few years ago I realized that anything I write or edit in a Google Doc (so, the totality of all my work) has to be in Arial, 10 point size. Like a psycho, the first thing I do when I open a Google Doc is highlight everything and change it to 10, Arial, because that kind of across-the-board consistency feels the same to me as decluttering a living room before a day of working from home. I do this even when it’s technically not my document.

There are two notable exceptions: Because I don’t like underlining, and I really hate bolded letters, when I make outlines of any kind I put the subject [headline] in Georgia, point size 14. It’s what the New York Times uses so it feels smart. And for years, my resume has been in Bell MT, which I think is scholarly like Baskerville but a little more delicate, a little less Ivy League.

Jon Roth: Lucida Blackletter

Style editor at Esquire

When I was about 10-years-old and just coming around to the idea of writing recreationally, the only font for me was Lucida Blackletter. Part of the draw was the angular, old-school type: I wanted to write a book, and nothing says ‘book’ like these Gutenberg-y letters.

More than that, though, Blackletter felt right for the kinds of stories I was writing: big, bloody, Gothic fantasies, heavy on flickering torchlight, ringing swords, and poisonous jewelry. Basically I was writing a whole lot of Dungeons & Dragons fanfic, and Blackletter transported me to that world. These days, I have other props to set the writing mood (embarrassingly, I light a lot of candles), so I stick with Arial when I open Google Docs. It evokes nothing for me except clarity, which I think should be a writer’s first priority.

Perrin Drumm: Arial

Founder + director of Eye on Design

I am font agnostic. Choosing a “perfect” font would send me down a rabbit hole I would never crawl out of. I choose not to descend into the darkness and use whatever font an application throws my way.

For a graphic design editor who’s pretty particular about most writing-related things (don’t even get me started on pens and notebooks and erasers), my acquiescence to default fonts strikes even me as odd, but so far the Helvetica Neue of my Notes app and the Arial of my Google Docs has served me well. I leave typesetting to the designers.

Zack Schamberg: Courier

Writer on HBO’s High Maintenance

One of the blessings of screenwriting is that the formatting choices are made for you: Courier, always. It is definitely weird that an entire industry swears by a font that’s pretending it came out of a typewriter, but I’ve grown to love it. It’s simple and dumb and easy to read. When I learned that The Coen Brothers use Times New Roman, of course I had to try that, too. But Times New Roman reminds me too much of middle school.

Alyssa Bereznak: Arial, 14 pt

Staff writer at The Ringer

My preference for fonts has changed with the phases in my life. In high school my Xanga was littered with moody, embarrassing stuff: Impact, Comic Sans, Wingding, the works. In college I took myself very seriously, and exclusively wrote in Times New Roman. I then graduated to the beloved sans serif of the masses: Arial. Specifically, Arial, single-spaced in 12 point. I prefer as weightless a font as possible because my neuroses do quite enough on their own to complicate my writing process, thank you very much.

Recently, however, an alarming thing started happening. Due to a lifetime of staring at a laptop screen, I could no longer read my work in 12 point Arial. So I began reluctantly enlarging the font to 18 point to do my writing. When it came time to turn a draft into my editor, I would then sneakily shrink the the draft back to 12. This might sound insane, but I felt as though my identity, my youth, was tied to my ability to read and write in 12 point Arial.

Then one day, when I forget to shrink my draft, my sham of an existence was revealed. My editor immediately suggested I go to an eye doctor. Now I have glasses. My vision is better. But I still can’t read 12 point Arial without squinting. In case you were wondering, this story was written in 14 point. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that’s just the type of writer I am now.

Thogdin Ripley: Albertus

Editor of Hexus Press

What more noble a glyph to convey the high and nervous thoughts of the threadbare and slightly tweedy (i.e. me) as he screams into a Godless sky than Albertus? The selfsame font that Faber & Faber—in their prime, “paper covered” editions—used exclusively, and still redolent of Hughes and Plath, the characters were in fact designed by metal engraver (and later Faber art director) Berthold Wolpe to resemble letters carved into bronze. Although there is a perfectly functioning lowercase, I find the weighty, almost flinty off-ness of the bold capitals meets most needs—at least for notes to the milkman, shopping lists, etc.—printed in white on a black background for maximum effect, and hewn (preferably glowing) into living rock for something more hefty, like a deadline reminder.

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