Enlarge /. Keep your Garamond off your panties!
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Let me bury the lede for a moment to tell you a story. Long ago, in a magical area called Academe, professors became familiar with the old students' tricks of fiddling with both margins and spacing to fit their essays into a prescribed page boundary. Triple spacing and two inch margins could no longer save you from the aftermath of a spoiled evening on Franklin Street when you should have read Aurora Leigh in the library instead.
But for a shiny couple of years, professors didn't mandate font choices – and they wouldn't use the Red Pen of Shame unless you announced the abolition of Barthes' S / Z in Comic Sans, for example.
As someone intending to be a Serious Writer ™, I felt obliged to write papers that showcase my genius to the full. Papers that, in the strictest sense, could exceed the specified number of pages. And if I really fucking made a word smith out of my analysis of Lancelot Andrewes' court sermons, it was always Garamond who came to my aid.
Ah, Garamond – how you saved me from the hard, boring, and necessary work of editing! How you pushed those extra paragraphs back on page five instead of leaving them bloated and obscene on the forbidden page six! How you offered that electric tingle of sophistication when I avoided the plebeian, pedestrian, pathetic use of Times New Roman!
Good. Apparently I wasn't the only one who played this game. My professors got tired of reading papers that were longer than they wanted. You started mandating (O gods!) 12-point Times New Roman with two spaces and an inch margin – or you'd get a big bold zero.
Fast forward to this week when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals came to the same conclusion that attorneys are using Garamond to cram more than is strictly allowed in their legal briefs. Federal Complaint Rule 32 (a) (5) only states that "a face with proportionally spaced serifs must contain" and "must be 14 points or larger". However, the rules do not state which proportional fonts can be used in legal submissions.
As attorney John Elwood pointed out on Twitter, "Garamond is more compact than most fonts. In most appeals, its use cuts multiple pages. Because of this, it has long been a last resort for limited-page files."
Also, being a smaller font, it's more difficult to read at the same size as fonts like Times New Roman. And the court has just had enough of it.
"The court found that certain fonts like Century and Times New Roman are more readable than others, especially Garamond, which appears smaller than the other two," announced the DC Circuit this week. The court wanted to "advise against the use of Garamond".
This led to the unusual prospect of legal media publishing multiple articles this week on font choices as lawyers argued over the merits of Baskerville and Gill Sans.
The DC Circuit's animus against Garamond has not yet extended to the wider appeal system. The guidelines for fonts in the fifth and third circuits are essentially just the standard federal rules of procedure. But now that judges in an influential appellate circle have shown their pro-Times New Roman bias, WILL GARAMOND BECOME A VICTIM OF CANCELLATION CULTURE, too?