To serif or not to serif....
Thread poster: Alison Sparks (X)

Alison Sparks (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
French to English
+ ...
Feb 26, 2012

that is the question.

Whether it is still the general rule that serif fonts should be used for bulk text, and sans-serif for headings or...........

All of the text on this site seems to be sans...... In the "old days" it was reckoned to be easier to read serif fonts, and I still find this to be the case. So am I just old fashioned?

The other DTP rule used to be not to mix more than 2 fonts, and to change size or other attributes to enhance sections.

I'd appreciate being brought up to date on this.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
No such animal Feb 26, 2012

Alison Sparks wrote:

that is the question.

Whether it is still the general rule that serif fonts should be used for bulk text, and sans-serif for headings or....



I'd say that the only consensus I'm aware of is that there is no "general rule" in English and these things vary among clients and publications. I don't see formatting as a translation issue per se, since I consider the translated drafts I deliver as part of a process which will subsequently be tarted up and tweaked in terms of this kind of details (fonts, sizes, indents... etc). Just my opinion.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Agree! Feb 26, 2012

neilmac wrote:
I don't see formatting as a translation issue per se...


Translation is about TEXT. There were times when it was done with pen or pencil, later with typewriters, and finally with computers. There was a couple of decades during which, in spite of translation being done with computers, there were no CAT tools.

However though CAT tools preserve formatting to some extent, formatting is not a translation issue. Otherwise reasonable translators would't charge extra for fixing layout on translated PowerPoint files.

Recently, within the past two weeks, a translation agency was looking for someone to fix a translation's layout. I had a chance to check their files. Apparently an 80-page PDF (distilled/editable), a company catalog, was converted into Word, and translated. After translation, it became a 120-page DOC file. They wanted someone to fix it all back into the original pages for a low 2-digit figure in USD.

I told them that If I could, I'd grafitti on the Great Wall of China, "MS Word is NOT a DTP application!" so it could be read from outer space.

My best offer to them was that I could use InFix Pro to export that PDF text to XML, they could have their translator quickly auto-translate it with the CAT tool TM they used before, and then I'd import that tagged translation back into the tagged PDF, and adjust layout using InFix again. However my best cost estimate for doing my part of it was a top 3-digit figure in USD, as it was a graphically complex publication.

Of course, I never heard of them again. Many people tend to think that "translation" includes delivering something as if it were originally created in the target language. This is tantamount to expecting that a butcher (sic!) would prepare and serve a Steak Diane for the price of the meat alone.


 

Darío  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Rules may change sometimes Feb 26, 2012

Typographically speaking, the rule has always been to use serif fonts for reading text (books, articles, for example) for the simple reason that those serifs give the reader (we) a better and faster character and word recognition than those other fonts lacking the serifs (sans-serifs).

Lately, with the internet and all those screens all around us, sans serif fonts have been used for bulk text because of the imprecision of most devices to display the subtleties of the serif fonts (some feature very thin strokes, almost impossible to be displayed on screen at smaller font sizes).

Anyway, a few semi-serif fonts (which feature a hint of those serifs or just thicker ones) have been used since a while and they prove to be quite a good replacement for screen text.

The other rules, using only two fonts, is just common sense in all typographic and editorial design: the more fonts, styles, weights, colors, etc, your text features, the more distracted the reader will be. And this applies equally to printed texts and to screen texts.

D.

[Editado a las 2012-02-26 18:54 GMT]

[Editado a las 2012-02-26 18:55 GMT]

[Editado a las 2012-02-26 18:55 GMT]


 

Alison Sparks (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 27, 2012

especially to Dario. In fact I asked the question for two reasons.

One being to reassure myself that a translation delivered in MSWord would be acceptable formatted in that way.

The other because I'm working on a project including brochures and the client has asked me to consider reorganising the layout. I would get paid for both the translation and the layout, and no I won't be using Word for DTP.


 

Claudio Nasso  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:07
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
It depends on graphic designer/client choices Feb 27, 2012

Hi Alison,

good question and, from a general point of view, you are right.
Alison Sparks wrote:

that is the question.

Whether it is still the general rule that serif fonts should be used for bulk text, and sans-serif for headings or...........

BUT... all depends on the choice made by the graphic designer/client.

As a matter of fact, as I myself am a graphic designer and multilingual DTP specialist on behalf of various primary Italian and foreign publishers, I have another “general rule” (it can be shared or not, and it depends on the general appearance and contents of the document):

• for “technical” documents (e.g. technical manuals, user's manuals, operating manuals, etc) I prefer using a sans-serif font (say: Arial, Helvetica, Univers, etc) both for headings and “body text”;

• for “conversational” documents (e.g. a novel, an academic essay, an art exhibition catalogue, etc.) I prefer using a serif font (say: Times, Garamond, etc.).

In any case you are right when you are saying that:
The other DTP rule used to be not to mix more than 2 fonts, and to change size or other attributes to enhance sections.

This is a “general rule” when working on a document.

Claudio


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:07
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Serif Feb 27, 2012

Alison Sparks wrote:

that is the question.

Whether it is still the general rule that serif fonts should be used for bulk text, and sans-serif for headings or...........

All of the text on this site seems to be sans...... In the "old days" it was reckoned to be easier to read serif fonts, and I still find this to be the case. So am I just old fashioned?

The other DTP rule used to be not to mix more than 2 fonts, and to change size or other attributes to enhance sections.

I'd appreciate being brought up to date on this.


The whole point about serif fonts is that they are much easier to read in body text. Some of today's serif fonts, such as Hoefler Text, are elegant and fresh and don't look at all old-fashioned.

Most sans serif fonts are unsuitable for body text because they are very difficult to read - with a few exceptions such as the one used on this site (Geneva?)

Fonts should not normally be mixed. To mix them is simply bad taste, akin to wearing too many different kinds of clothes in colours that clash, all at the same time.

[Edited at 2012-02-27 11:30 GMT]


 

Alison Sparks (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@ Tom Feb 27, 2012

So, the old rules do still apply and what I was doing and teaching 30years ago has not radically changed.

The brochure I've been asked to do uses about 4 fonts and doesn't look very professional, but apparently was done by an agency. Hence my hesitation in case things had changed drastically.


 


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