Dissertations, Fonts, and Wasting Time

From the outset, I should admit that I’m somewhat of a “font junkie.”

I haven’t always been this way. In my undergraduate years, I was mostly satisfied with Times New Roman, unless of course I needed to make my paper a bit longer, in which case I would gravitate toward Courier or Arial (I was convinced that this trick was undetectable to my professors). I never needed a font to make a paper shorter…a testimony to how much I despised the act of writing.

Things have changed. Now, I gravitate toward new fonts like a shark to blood. Initially, my fascination began in seminary with Greek fonts…I wanted to make the Greek text in my papers stand out better, so I began downloading various fonts to help make this happen. Then, with the advent of Unicode fonts some years back, things got more interesting. Now, there was no longer a need to have separate Greek and Roman fonts. The joys! Of course, this led to the frustration of liking the Greek character set but not liking the Roman character set or vice versa.

Over the years I discovered Linux Libertine, Garamond Premier Pro, SBL Greek, Minion, Cambria, among others. I’ll admit that my excitement has waned a bit. Nowadays, I have two fonts that I use on a fairly consistent basis: GentiumAlt and Palatino Linotype. Both are serif fonts and have a nice, clean look to them. Plus, both are Unicode and have smart looking Greek character sets.

Yesterday evening, as I was chipping away at some dissertation-related business (not writing yet, just piddling), it occurred to me that some fonts may be more acceptable to others when it comes to a dissertation…could it be that I would have to return to Times New Roman? The horror!

My alacrity rekindled, I began to compulse. A simple Google search on the topic led me to a discussion forum in which someone had asked a similar question: “What font should I use for my dissertation?” One of the responses is simply too good (and poignant) not to share. Despite my love for fonts, I’m inclined to agree with this:

Spending time choosing fonts is not productive work, and is one of the absolutely classic time-wastes of graduate students that make advisors beat their heads into the wall.

The probability that anyone but you and your committee will ever read your dissertation in its form as a dissertation is very low, and your dissertation will look like shit no matter what fonts you choose because the required formatting is functional, not aesthetic.

The probability that anyone but you will care in the slightest what fonts are in the dissertation is exactly zero.


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