A USE FOR SCRIPT TYPE?

Our frequent commenter “Martin the Mess” suggests a very reasonable use for typewriters with script faces:

When writing a novel or other fictional form where part of the text consists of letters written from one character to another (such as some of your own works), one might use a standard typeface for the non-epistolary parts and a script typeface for the letters when trying to show that the letter is (in-story) handwritten rather than typed. Or would your editor prefer you just include some sort of notation that the final published work should change fonts?

The answer to his question is that, in the days when most manuscripts were submitted typewritten, the editor would probably have preferred standard type with some sort of notation. And then the editor would have felt free to ignore the notation.

As a rule, the more books you sell, the more license you have for typographic vanity. A writer who has never been published before can expect the publisher to dictate how her words appear on the page. A writer whose previous book was at the top of the bestseller list for six months can submit a PDF in Comic Sans, with instructions that it is to be printed without alteration. Somewhere in the middle is the established moderately successful writer, whose suggestion of a different type for certain parts of the book will be taken into serious consideration and perhaps implemented if the designer does not threaten to resign.

But the editor would still have preferred standard type. In many establishments, even “Elite” type (twelve characters per inch, for readers who grew up after the typewriter age) was banned. Ten characters per inch, double-spaced, margins an inch wide—that was the rule. It made the casting-off—that is, the business of counting how many lines and pages a given amount of manuscript would take up—almost automatic. The more an author’s manuscript resembled the ideal manuscript template stamped in the editor’s mind, the more charitably the words in that manuscript would be read.

For a writer who did not have a firmly established relationship with the editor, the danger of using a script face for anything would be that the editor would throw the manuscript out on sight without even reading any comments as to why the script face was used. It would be safer just to type in ordinary Pica type and add a comment in parentheses to the effect that the epistolatory sections might be set in a different type. Then the editor might think for a while and grudgingly admit, “Maybe he can have italics.”