Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? Yes, that’s how it should be, but unfortunately, that’s one rule that doesn’t apply to your dissertation. That doesn’t mean you really have to amp up your cover art. What it means is that you have to choose the right font because that is one thing that your dissertation is definitely going to be judged for by your assessor.
As unimportant as you may think the font to be (we can totally excuse you for forgetting all about it after all the endless all-nighters you’ve pulled for your dissertation), it’s still a very vital part of your dissertation. The font is what determines the readability of your assignment and if you get that wrong, be prepared to get low grades on your dissertation. So then, which is the best font for your dissertation that can save you from the predicament of poor scores? Let’s find out.
Times New Roman – Is it ‘The One’?
If you have typed just about any academic assignment on your personal computer, you already know that most of your teachers have been irrevocably in love with the font called ‘Times New Roman.’ And sure enough, they have good reasons to prefer it.
Classified as serif font (fonts that have a slight projection towards the end of each letter), the Times New Roman was originally designed for The Times newspaper of London. It is much appreciated for its formal style and aesthetic, which is why most universities prescribe this font for writing all sorts of academic assignments, including dissertations.
That’s not all. Times New Roman is also your safest option as it is least likely to offend your supervisors and assessors. It is also quite readable and legible on screen, making it an overall good choice.
Despite all its positives though, Times New Roman has a couple of drawbacks, which you should take into account. This font style, while formal and sophisticated, can be a pain to read at times. In Times New Roman, the text is closely packed in, which can reduce legibility to a great extent. So if your professor prefers you submit a copy of your dissertation that is clearly legible, you should steer clear from this as well as other serif fonts. Besides, according to many professors, this font style is grossly overused, and hence, unacceptable when you are writing your dissertation.
So then what should you use if the classic and safest Times New Roman font is a questionable choice? We turn our sights to sans serif fonts.
Sans Serif Fonts – The New Age Choice For Your Dissertation
Sans serif fonts are the ones that do not have the slight protrusion at the end of each letter which is so characteristic of the serif fonts. Sans serif fonts are generally easy on the eye and look especially good on screen. These include popular styles such as Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana and more.
These can be a fresh alternative to boring serif fonts that, honestly, have been overused. However, despite looking great on screen and being aesthetically pleasing, the problem with sans serif fonts is that they appear too casual. Most supervisors prefer you choose a formal style because after all, your dissertation is a formal piece of writing.
There are a couple of other problems with sans serif fonts as well. They don’t look particularly good in print due to their lighter design (serif fonts are bolder). Moreover, if you wish to write certain portions of your dissertation in italics, then sans-serif fonts can prove to be problematic. In sans serif fonts, italics are often simply portrayed as slanted letters rather than truly being italicized as they are supposed to be.
Now, this is confusing, right? We haven’t arrived at a definite conclusion regarding which font should be used for your dissertation. So what now then? How do you know which font to use? We’ve got you covered there too.
Tips That Can Help You Choose The Right Font Style
If you are one of those blessed students who has been given the luxury to choose the font style for your dissertation, you can try and experiment a little to find out which style would work best. This is, of course, your university has no set rules regarding the style, and you have plenty of time on your hands to tinker around and figure it out for yourself. In this regard, here are a couple of tips that can help you.
- Avoid using Calibri for your body text even though it may seem tempting since it is the default font style on MS Office. The same holds true for other sans-serif fonts as well although you can use these for headings. The reason for this is that most experts agree that serif fonts are easier to read if the text is too long and divided into larger chunks. Besides, even if examiners give you the freedom to choose the font style, he/she still doesn’t expect you to stray too far from the conventional font styles.
- Keep an eye on the way the numerals are aligned with the texts in your chosen font style. For example, if you try to be different and choose any of the acceptable font styles such as Palatino, Garamond, Schoolbook, Century, Georgia, Cambria, Constantia and Minion Pro, you should make sure that you pick one whose numbers align neatly. Certain of these fonts (Constantia and Georgia to be precise) make use of non-aligning numerals, which means that the numerals may stand below or above the base line of the text. While this looks good in blocks of text, in tables and other figures, it can lead to a lot of confusion.
- Use a different font style for the headings in your dissertation and a different one for the paragraphs. This will help in putting the spotlight on the headings so that they become easily noticeable. It will also bring about an increase in the readability of your dissertation as using different fonts will make it easier for the examiner’s eyes to move on from one heading to the next without any problem. The best way to create striking yet pleasing to the eye contrast in fonts is by using a sans serif heading with a serif body text. Some combinations that are quite popular include – Helvetica with Garamond, Arial Narrow with Times New Roman and so on and so forth.
What Else Should You Know About Formatting Your Dissertation?
Apart from knowing the ideal font for your dissertation, there are other things that you need to know too. These include –
- The font size you should use should be at points 10, 11 or 12. Subscripts and superscripts (footnotes, formulas, etc.) should be 2 points smaller than the size you have used for the body text. These sizes make it easier to read the text even when the page is zoomed out.
- The text of your dissertation should appear in one single column on every page of your dissertation. You should never make multiple columns for the text of the different chapters of your dissertation.
- Every written word should be double-spaced. Exceptions exist though, and these include block quotations, headings, notes, captions, etc., which should all be single-spaced.
- When starting new paragraphs, you should make sure that the indentation between each of them is the same.
- Your word document should be left justified.
- You should never write headings at the bottom of any page, even if there’s space left for it. It should be moved on to the next page or adjustments should be made within the same page to accommodate the heading without disturbing the consistency in formatting.
- Use roman numerals when numbering your pages and place these at the bottom and centre of the page. You can also use Arabic numerals if your university specifies.
In this blog, we have told you a lot about the font you should use when composing your dissertation. Let’s recap the main pointers –
- Times New Roman is conventionally acceptable but overused
- Sans serif fonts are different but can come across as too casual for formal writing
- It is desirable to use a combination of serif and sans-serif fonts to ensure easy readability
- Apart from the font style, there are other things you should know about formatting your dissertation, which include font size, paragraph indents and more.
Although pondering over which font will help you show that your dissertation is serious is considered to be a major time-waster, we believe that the use of the right font can truly make a difference: a positive one at that. We hope you have some clarity now on the font style you should use for your dissertation. We wish you all the best!
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