Archive | May 2007

My Favorite Font


I used to be a big Times New Roman user, and back at the publishing house where I used to work, one of the first things I did before editing a manuscript was to turn off track changes and convert the text to Times New Roman 11.

In the last two years of magazine work, however, I’ve discovered the sleek, more readable 10-point Trebuchet, finding Times New Roman illegible (or maybe it was my poor vision!)

Slate recently asked a number of writers what font they prefer, and it’s an interesting range: from Courier New to Palatino, and Century Schoolbook to Hoefler Text.

Nowadays I find that setting my MS Word document to Trebuchet has become a habit even when I write, although I try to use Verdana or Tahoma every now and then, for variety.

Jonathan Lethem, author, You Don’t Love Me Yet: A Novel

I dislike the temptation of making a raw draft look like it’s already typeset. Before computers, I wrote three novels on a typewriter, and there can never be anything but 12-point Courier (double-spaced) forever: I write on an eternal Selectric of the mind. I can even hear the rattle of the metal ball against the sheet of paper, I swear.

Read the full article here.

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Writing from a Fresh Perspective


In an interview with a magazine publisher more than a year ago, I was asked how I keep my copy fresh and new when I basically write the same thing repeatedly.

She was browsing a story I wrote about sourcing gambling supplies in a city in mainland China. I realized, indeed, how do I write effectively about a place I have never been to and industries I know superficially based on the scant information I get from mainland-based market analysts?

The problem about working with an “innovation-anemic” (to borrow a phrase from my creative ex) behemoth is that everything is templated. There is no room for jazzing up. You cannot sound casual or conversational. Copy can only be written a certain way: “Makers in so-and-so are doing this . . .”

In the case of this sourcing story I’m struggling to write (unsuccessful, all these six hours today), I place myself in the buyer’s shoes and ask: Why would I source from this place? What makes them different from the other hubs? How would I benefit from working with them?

I try not to go through similar published articles so that the piece-in-progress does not echo the templated narration. While I am encouraged to study old articles and see how an issue is tackled, I find that reading previous articles influences my writing and I risk sounding old, boring, rusty, and well, templated—a state I am constantly fighting.

It’s this challenge that has made me start to like my job (oh, yes, I like it now, I realize). While I would admit that it was an offer I took up only because I wanted a writing position and refused to go the call center path, the job allows me to constantly practice my writing—something I veered away from when I went the way of publishing and manuscript editing. It is in practicing that we get better.