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#1
Old 04-26-2011, 02:37 PM
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When did 11 pt font become the standard over 12 pt?

For the longest time I had the impression that 12 point font was "standard" for most documents, and many people still seem to have that impression. But nowadays Microsoft Word's default font size is 11 pt (and the font is "Calibri", wtf is that about?), and Google Docs also uses 11 pt as the default. I know you can change this setting but it still annoys me, because I think of 12 as standard. What gives?
#2
Old 04-26-2011, 02:59 PM
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I don't know the answer, but I believe the 11 point thing came in at the same time they switched default fonts from Times New Roman to Calibri. There's probably a connection. Could Calibri be slightly larger somehow?
#3
Old 04-26-2011, 03:10 PM
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IIRC, the Calibri switch was MS acknowledging (declaring?) that printing is becoming secondary, even in Word. Times is designed for printed legibility, Calibri is designed for screen legibility.

Not sure about the size switch, but I always thought 12pt seemed a little large. I'd actually used 11pt for a lot of things I'd printed personally just because it seemed...more correct.
#4
Old 04-26-2011, 03:35 PM
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I rarely use 12 point. It seems to big.

Was standard typewriter font approximately 12 point?
#5
Old 04-26-2011, 03:39 PM
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#6
Old 04-26-2011, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Cello View Post
Was standard typewriter font approximately 12 point?
Typewriters and their fonts were generally classed as either Pica (10 characters per inch) or Elite (12 CPI). Line spacing was usually 6 lines per inch.

That's all for monospaced fonts of course, which is what the vast majority of typewriters used. Also, I'm speaking of how things were in the US. European typewriters might have been different.

Last edited by Bytegeist; 04-26-2011 at 03:56 PM.
#7
Old 04-26-2011, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bytegeist View Post
Typewriters and their fonts were generally classed as either Pica (10 characters per inch) or Elite (12 CPI). Line spacing was usually 6 lines per inch.

That's all for monospaced fonts of course, which is what the vast majority of typewriters used. Also, I'm speaking of how things were in the US. European typewriters might have been different.
My hazy recollections of the late 1980s when I first converted over from typing to word processing are that we were told that 12-point fonts were about the same size as Pica text and 10-point fonts were about the same as Elite text.
#8
Old 04-26-2011, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bytegeist View Post
Typewriters and their fonts were generally classed as either Pica (10 characters per inch) or Elite (12 CPI). Line spacing was usually 6 lines per inch..
Other way around. There are 12 pts in a pica. (And 72 pts in an inch = 6 picas in an inch)
#9
Old 04-26-2011, 04:06 PM
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And of course, if you had to write a paper with a required number of pages (ie: a five page paper), you would use a standard 14 point font.
#10
Old 04-26-2011, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KneadToKnow
My hazy recollections of the late 1980s when I first converted over from typing to word processing are that we were told that 12-point fonts were about the same size as Pica text and 10-point fonts were about the same as Elite text.
Those numbers fit perfectly with Courier, at least. (Courier-10pt has 12 CPI, and Courier-12pt has 10 CPI.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by MobiusStripes
Other way around. There are 12 pts in a pica. (And 72 pts in an inch = 6 picas in an inch)
That very well might be how the printers define the term, but "Pica" typewriter fonts were still 10 characters per (horizontal) inch.

The 6 picas per inch might be the origin of the standard line spacing though. (But I'm not sure.)

Last edited by Bytegeist; 04-26-2011 at 04:12 PM.
#11
Old 04-26-2011, 04:10 PM
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"these go to 11"

Quote:
Originally Posted by typoink View Post
Not sure about the size switch, but I always thought 12pt seemed a little large.
You must be fairly young then. To go from 12 to 11 is moving in the wrong direction, for me. I'm 51. I don't mind getting older—honest, it's fine with me—except for the one thing I really hate about it: declining eyesight. I have to strain my eyes to read, more and more. When I open some web page with font this tiny, I curse the juvenile delinquents who made it that way. 11 is not my friend. I believe I speak for many of the 50+ cohort. Lately, I write in Word with 13, except for work because they want everything in TNR 12. And I magnify the view some.
#12
Old 04-26-2011, 04:23 PM
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In legal work, most courts require 12 point font. Some 13 (Alaska) and some 14 (Hawaii federal courts). I was got hauled in front of the Judge for using a font too small.
#13
Old 04-26-2011, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raguleader View Post
And of course, if you had to write a paper with a required number of pages (ie: a five page paper), you would use a standard 14 point font.
I was thinking that it was those few who wanted to write more then the allowed limit in school. While most of us were setting wide margins, triple spacing and expanding the font as much as we can. There were a few who were doing the opposite trying to write more and they may have finally gotten their way.
#14
Old 04-26-2011, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MobiusStripes View Post
Other way around. There are 12 pts in a pica. (And 72 pts in an inch = 6 picas in an inch)
The term "pica" as used for typewriters is not the same as the unit "pica" used in typesetting. On typewriters, pica size was 10 characters an inch.
#15
Old 04-26-2011, 06:18 PM
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I realize now why it bugs me so much. To me, a "nice, round" number is either even or at least divisible by 5. 11 is an odd, prime number and thus neither of those things. We can't have a weird number like that as a default value!

This has to stop.
#16
Old 04-26-2011, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigamarole View Post
I realize now why it bugs me so much. To me, a "nice, round" number is either even or at least divisible by 5. 11 is an odd, prime number and thus neither of those things. We can't have a weird number like that as a default value!

This has to stop.
Write a letter to Bill Gates! Make sure it's in 11pt Calibri, though.
#17
Old 04-26-2011, 06:29 PM
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It's because computer screens got bigger.
#18
Old 04-29-2011, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rigamarole View Post
For the longest time I had the impression that 12 point font was "standard" for most documents, and many people still seem to have that impression.
I don't think that 12 point has ever been standard for documents, except possibly in word processors. Pick up almost any professionally typeset book or newspaper and you'll probably find that the running text is much smaller. TeX uses 10pt as its default setting; knowing the amount of research Knuth put into that system, I'm inclined to believe that was the most common font size for books and journals, at least in the 1970s and 1980s.
#19
Old 04-29-2011, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
I don't think that 12 point has ever been standard for documents, except possibly in word processors. Pick up almost any professionally typeset book or newspaper and you'll probably find that the running text is much smaller. TeX uses 10pt as its default setting; knowing the amount of research Knuth put into that system, I'm inclined to believe that was the most common font size for books and journals, at least in the 1970s and 1980s.
Yeah, I meant in word processors.
#20
Old 04-29-2011, 04:43 PM
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IIRC, it has to do with onscreen font-smoothing algorithms more than anything. I don't remember where I saw it — it was a few years ago — but I read that odd-numbered type sizes (11pt, 13pt, 15pt, etc.) look better on screen due to the way the various font-smoothing techniques work.
#21
Old 04-29-2011, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bytegeist View Post
Typewriters and their fonts were generally classed as either Pica (10 characters per inch) or Elite (12 CPI). Line spacing was usually 6 lines per inch.

That's all for monospaced fonts of course, which is what the vast majority of typewriters used. Also, I'm speaking of how things were in the US. European typewriters might have been different.
And by extension, the standard typewritten document was expected to be at 10CPI/12-point, especially for such as court filings or bills ; this was translated into word processing as a requirement for 12-point text - 12 point Courier looks like 10CPI typed text - and it became "the" standard adopted by the first generations of office software.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 04-29-2011 at 05:52 PM.
#22
Old 04-29-2011, 06:06 PM
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Nearly everyone at work has switched to Georgia 12pt. Great font and looks great printing from a laser printer. Sometimes I'll switch to 11pt if a memo is running past one page. We try to keep memos short and on 1 page. People are more likely to read them.

Last edited by aceplace57; 04-29-2011 at 06:07 PM.
#23
Old 04-30-2011, 02:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
You must be fairly young then. To go from 12 to 11 is moving in the wrong direction, for me. I'm 51. I don't mind getting older—honest, it's fine with me—except for the one thing I really hate about it: declining eyesight. I have to strain my eyes to read, more and more. When I open some web page with font this tiny, I curse the juvenile delinquents who made it that way. 11 is not my friend. I believe I speak for many of the 50+ cohort. Lately, I write in Word with 13, except for work because they want everything in TNR 12. And I magnify the view some.
You don't even have to be older; I often zoom websites and I'm not even 30. (Part of that is zooming OUT because they make the images too darn large)
#24
Old 04-30-2011, 09:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
It's because computer screens got bigger.
That doesn't really make sense, since Word uses a magnification feature. The font on the screen is not actually 11 point. On my screen, it matches up with Firefox's 16 point.
#25
Old 04-30-2011, 09:50 AM
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It could be worse. The standard ACM conference proceeding, these days, is printed in 9 point type! Try reviewing a stack of 15 of those. It only takes an hour or two to go crosseyed.
#26
Old 04-30-2011, 09:59 AM
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At 74 years I deplore the switch to smaller fonts. I just measured the baseline skip of Scientific American and it is 11pt, which implies the font size is at most 9.5, maybe only 9. By contrast, the New Yorker has exactly 6 lines per inch, meaning likely a 10pt font. It is amazing how much more readable it is. I may drop SciAm because it is so hard to read. After subscribing for 45 years.

The online journal I do the technical editing for is strictly 12pt (with 14.4 baseline skips) but we have no space restrictions. Electrons are cheap. Of course, this matters only when you print them out, but then the results are nirvana.
#27
Old 04-30-2011, 03:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
At 74 years I deplore the switch to smaller fonts. I just measured the baseline skip of Scientific American and it is 11pt, which implies the font size is at most 9.5, maybe only 9. By contrast, the New Yorker has exactly 6 lines per inch, meaning likely a 10pt font. It is amazing how much more readable it is. I may drop SciAm because it is so hard to read. After subscribing for 45 years.
You might contact them and see if the magazines and see if they have a large print version. Alternatively, electronic versions are zoomable, but require some sort of electronic device.
#28
Old 04-30-2011, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
That doesn't really make sense, since Word uses a magnification feature. The font on the screen is not actually 11 point. On my screen, it matches up with Firefox's 16 point.
Thta's my point. Because screens are bigger - and because more and more people do their reading onscreen - the font doesn't have to be as big to be readable.
#29
Old 04-30-2011, 06:59 PM
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Pica, ten characters per horizontal inch, is still the industry standard for screenplays. For screenwriting format programs and other word processing uses, this means Courier, size 12.

http://artfulwriter.com/archives/200...at-to-end.html
#30
Old 04-30-2011, 07:04 PM
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I don't really see what the problem is.
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