Pointless point sizes

From time to time I’m going to be posting here something from my old blog. This one is a revised version of one dealing with what can be an incredibly annoying aspect of typography, so here it goes.

This is a post deals mostly with that pointless bit of insanity that is commonly known to as point sizes.

Why do I refer to it as a pointless bit of insanity? Well, let’s have a look at a little sample:

pointsize1And now for the trivia question of the day: what do these twelve samples have in common?

The answer is, believe it or not, that they are all supposed to be the same size. Yes, you read that right, they are all supposed to be at 16 pts (or at least they were before they got turned into a jpg, but that’s a different story). In fact there are fonts that are both bigger and smaller than the ones I used in this example, but I figured that these would do to get my point across.

That means that if you want to get these to look more or less the same size for whatever reason you would have to make some changes (for this example I picked four fonts, the first and last, plus two that are a fairly common choice when it comes to a book’s interior layout):

pointsize2So much for the reliability of that point size as a reference.

This means that if you have no choice but to design the interior layout of your book yourself you should probably pick your typeface first, and then worry about the font size… and while you are at it, keep in mind that chances are that your book won’t be printed on full sized letter/A4/legal paper. That means that the old standard (dating back to the good old days of typewriters) that says that a page should be printed in a 12/14 point font and double spaced does not apply. In fact, if you are dealing with a work of fiction that is meant for an adult or even young adult audience, you may want to go with something like a 10/12 point font size (depending on your choice of typeface) with an interlineation of 1.2/1.3 (in fact you are probably better off setting that one exactly as a fixed number of points, i.e. 16 or 18 points, as that would enable you to overcome the problems caused by the inconsistent font sizes). If your target audience is under the age of 10/12 you may want to increase that font size a little (one or two points per year should do).

Okay, I know this one came out of the blue, but I figured this was one that could spare someone some headaches.


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