Tag Archives: proofreading

Fonts for Editing

a map "locator pin" styled as the MS Word logo
To learn more about fonts for effective editing, see Section 36 of the book.

Font geeks love to debate readability and myriad other details about fonts. The other thing that matters when editing is being able to tell when the wrong character has been used. Font choice can cleverly conceal a wrong character hiding in a document: a 1 looks like an l, a superscript o looks like a °, an ‘ masquerades as a ′…

screen capture showing one and ell are nearly identical in Times New Roman font as well as the similarity between a superscript letter O and a degree symbol.
Times New Roman makes telling the difference between a 1 and an l nearly impossible. The superscript O versus the degree symbol is easier to spot; if you know what it should look like, that is.
colour reveals which character is the one
The pink character in this word is actually the digit one. There are some indicators such as spacing and height, but it’s not easy to tell at usual working magnification.

Changing the font to one that shows a more drastic difference between characters is one solution. Some editors prefer to edit in Helvetica, Calibri, or Verdana for just such a reason. If you modify the font of the “Normal” Style, it’s easy to undo this font change before finalizing the file. The client will never know the trick that helped you spot those apostrophes that should be primes. Just turn off Track Changes when you change the font.

screen capture showing one and ell are clearly different in Verdana font as well as the similarity between a superscript letter O and a degree symbol.
Verdana shows clear differences between the one and ell but if you didn’t know what a degree symbol (right) looked like, it might be easy for the superscript letter O to pass itself off.
a map "locator pin" styled as the MS Word logo
If this was helpful, you might want to explore even more radical formatting that boosts editing!
Calibri makes differences very clear, once you know what a degree symbol should look like.
Helvetica is an editor favourite, and it’s easy to see why in this example.

Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the Q&A thread.

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