It’s true. Our old, trustworthy work horse, Garamond,
has been on the news lately and under fire by the U.S. Court of Appeals, “encouraging the use of typefaces that are easier to read and to discourage use of Garamond.”
“Maybe it was a string of obscure acronyms appearing in a relatively small typeface that hurt the eyes of judges,” wrote
a commentator at the National Law Journal. Slate asked
“What did Garamond do to deserve a D.C. Court’s wrath?” I have some sympathy for the judges. When a big part of your job involves reviewing deadly dull legal briefs, readability matters.
But why Garamond? Didn’t we like Garamond? Here’s what they say:
Moreover, if one’s going to choose a font with serifs, Garamond is easier to read than the Times New Roman and Century fonts the D.C. Circuit prefers. Garamond has a smaller “x-height” — a measure of the size of lower-case letters relative to upper-case letters. As Betty Binns points out in her 1989 classic “Better Type,” research tells us that a large x-height leads to “poor differentiation of certain letter pairs, such as lowercase n and lowercase h.”
But the mediums have been changing – and some research has shown that in serif typefaces, higher x-heights might perform better. And if there’s one thing we’ve all been doing for the past year, is spend more time in front of our screens.
The D.C. Circuit recommends that documents be submitted in Times New Roman or Century. Century is required for most pleadings in the U.S. Supreme Court
, and the justices’ opinions are set in a variant known as Century Schoolbook. It’s a serious-looking font, but it scores low on tests of legibility
. Times New Roman has been the default choice among lawyers for longer than I’ve been a lawyer, and seems to be the default for lots of published scholarship.
Stephen Carter has a few more interesting personal thoughts on the matter, so please continue reading over at Bloomberg
. As for me, I’ll keep my Garamond, thank you.