Do you ever wonder why font matters in your text? Well, it says a lot more than you might think. In addition to being a creative way to present your text, various fonts convey different ideas and attitudes. For example, Times New Roman, the most popular font in the United States, is the preferred font for printed books and magazines and is known to convey authority and information. A screenplay, on the other hand, demands Courier.
When writing a manuscript for publication, it is important to use a non-proportional font. That means a font with each character having the same width. It includes Times New Roman and Courier, the most common fonts for manuscripts. Non-proportional fonts make the text appear as if typed on a typewriter.
The publishing industry is known for being anti-computer. It is changing and will change. But for now, it is still important to submit your manuscript in an acceptable font. That is, if you plan to have your book printed.
E-books are another story. In an e-book, fonts are used very creatively. The trick is to use restraint and balance. Do not use more than four fonts, as this can be very obnoxious for readers. Be consistent with fonts, too. Use the same font for all headings, even if you use a different font for the body text. You might use one font only for the cover or title page, or one font for one section, depending on the subject matter.
Font size is also worth considering. A traditional manuscript needs to be set in 12-point font, while an e-book can use another size; usually larger, because the text is designed to be read onscreen. The same rule goes for font size: do not vary the size too often. Yes, headings might look better in a larger font in your e-book, but do not change the font size of the body text from paragraph to paragraph.
Why Font Matters
For a traditional manuscript (for your novel, for example) font should always be in all black. E-books may use other colors. The reason a printed manuscript must be in all black is mainly that there is no point in using color. The script is designed to be easily read by a potential agent or publisher, and unusual colors can make it hard to read. Also, the manuscript you turn in for possible publication is not the same as the printed script that goes to press. So your color choices will not be reflected in the final copy of the actual book, if it is published.
Of course, there are always exceptions to these rules, and some vanity publishers have no regard for the “old-school” guidelines. But it is better to be safe than sorry. Some publishers will not read your manuscript if the fonts are wrong. Some will. It’s your choice, ultimately.
Often, writers do not have time to care for all the nuances of manuscript preparation, so a professional editor is hired to format the manuscript. In addition to proofreading your work, professional editors are available to properly format your manuscript as well. Therefore, if you don’t have time to go back through and correct all the odd fonts and varied sizes or colors, you can just enlist a professional editor. I have done this work many times. It is always satisfying to maximize the potential of good content by ensuring it is presented properly.
Originally posted 5/17/2009 and happily updated 11/14/2017. Thanks for reading!