Thursday, October 21, 2010

Form and Content

Now, before you panic, I'm not going all Brecht-Lukacs on you.

Instead, I thought I'd spend a little bit of time talking through my thesis. Not the argument, heavens no, not even the general gist of it. You probably couldn't care less. But what I can reasonably hope is that you, too, will care about what it looks like. Because you've been through teh internets and hated on Papyrus and Comic Sans, because you squirm uncomfortably at the thought of double-spacing: it just seems so patronising and vacant at the same time, suggesting that either the writer or the reader has a bit too much space where actual thoughts should be, right?

So here are my well-laid out plans for how my thesis will look.

Cambria (Headings) 14pt for the chapter titles. That glorious thin blue line maintains a level of decorum, decency even, before the onrush of gibberish and half-baked ideas. Cambria has a hint of motherly affection, but it is cool and aloof as well, above the fray as it were.

Calibri 11pt for body text, the text itself justified. No ragged right edge for me! The font itself is neat, simple. It gets the job done and it knows it. Subheadings are the same, only underlined. Footnote text is 10pt. Block quotes are indented 1.5cm on both sides, reduced to 10pt. Emphasis and text titles are in good ol' italics.

M dashes with spaces on either side, no Oxford commas, avoid scare quotes but if necessary (they're not) then single quotation marks, doubles for the real thing.  

I give myself space to think when I write, so I write with a 1.15 line spacing, but for submisison it will be 1.5. Much more crisp than a full-on double spacing: adequate space for annotation without the hint of infantilism.

Ah, formatting, how I love thee.

So, what does yours look like?


  1. I used LyX (which uses LaTeX under the hood) for my physics honours and engineering final year project.

    The editing of text is decoupled from the presentation of it, so I could completely change the appearance while editing. I tend to have 16-18pt sans-serif (I find sans-serif easier to read on a screen, serif easier on paper), black text on very faint pink background for editing.

    Then when it runs your document through the TeX typesetting engine it'll come out nicely formatted. For the output, I mostly stuck to the LaTeX defaults. I think I bumped the margins out, though. 1.5x spaced lines, and the LaTeX default font (Computer Modern) at 11pt.

    (By the way, it bit of a pain to comment here. I can't just fill in name/email/website/comment like usual...)

  2. Sounds very neat. I do like a bit of Cambria myself. I agree with the spacing. I don't like extra spacing on the screen, but will use the extra spacing when submitting... however I have been known to forget to change it before pressing print!

  3. My most common faux pas is forgetting to add page numbers (and sometimes change the spacing) before printing/emailing. It leads to a disproportionate sense of shame and I can't look people in the eye for a while.