Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A new typeface on the US State Department

For a more modern look.

I read, in posts from Bookninja and Maud Newton, who heard from Boing Boing, who heard from Ben Hammersley, who read in The Prandial Post, that "US bans timed-honoured [sic] typeface."

Some of them joked about it. But this is serious business. Courier New 12 has used up the allotted period for being honoured. It's time to move on.

As of February 1, at the US State Department "only Times New Roman 14 will be accepted."

The article notes three exceptions, so evidently the chosen typeface is to be applied to all manner of documents, not just electronic correspondence. It strikes me that Courier, long associated with computer text and printouts, was a very strange choice to begin with. How long was it honoured as the official font? Since the pre-computer era? Why was it ever the font of choice — it's notoriously difficult to read in printed matter.

Practically speaking, however, this shows the evolution of the in-house style guide in action. It is reassuring to me that government departments do have guidelines for their documentation. And according to the language of the news story reporting the change — bans, edict, decreed, draconian — these guidelines are to be taken seriously.

The world needs style guides, dammit! Without them — chaos.
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