Fonts & abstracts

Why is it that so many linguistics conferences require abstracts in Times New Roman or other fonts not friendly to linguistics? I can understand that they want common fonts, but it’d be nice to see more conferences allow fonts that include, say, IPA. It’s a bit like physics conferences not allowing math fonts in their abstracts.



3 thoughts on “Fonts & abstracts

  1. James Crippen January 21, 2008 / 10:06 am

    People require particular fonts because they don’t want to count the actual number of words. Instead they say “use this font in this size with these margins” and then just count the number of lines used. It’s a terribly archaic thing to do, especially in this day of computer-based writing where word count features are available in so many programs. There is, of course, a good IPA font that resembles Times New Roman, that being Doulos SIL. But lacking italics and bolds, much less small caps and ligatures, it’s not a very comprehensive solution.

    There’s really only one good thing about Times New Roman in comparison to most other fonts, and that is that it is relatively compressed and thus allows for more characters per line, and thus more words per page. This is because it was originally designed as a newspaper type, specifically the type for The Times of London (they have since changed to use Times Europa, I think for ink trapping reasons). The problem with this is that newspaper types are generally designed to be used in small columns, whereas book work uses long lines. More characters per line at book length-lines makes it harder to read because you have to scan backwards much further and lose track of the beginning of the next line. So it’s actually a suboptimal typeface for reading, although it does save on paper.

    There’s one nice thing about conference requirements, though. They don’t require double spacing. That’s one of the most ridiculous requirements I can think of in this modern era. It’s fine for drafts, but certainly not for finals.

  2. James Crippen January 21, 2008 / 10:07 am

    Oh, be thankful you’re not a scriptwriter in Hollywood or something. They’re still forced to do everything in double spaced Courier because of old assumptions from the typewriter era.

  3. tulugaq January 21, 2008 / 2:22 pm

    Oh, I know *why* they choose a standard font for conference submissions in general.

    What I don’t understand is why so many linguistics-related conferences choose one that doesn’t include commonly used linguistic symbols. Your choices are to stick with TNR (or whatever they require) and leave out IPA or other symbols TNR doesn’t have, use a linguistics font just for your examples and hope they won’t reject your abstract because of it, or use a font very similar to the required one, like Doulos SIL, and hope no one notices.

    Doulos SIL isn’t a good replacement, as you said, not only because it lacks a full range, but also because it doesn’t have the same spacing as TNR. So if you’re trying to sub Doulos SIL covertly, it won’t work well because of Doulos’ line spacing.

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