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Good typography for a speech manuscript


Question

Consider this use case: I have to give a speech, and I cannot give it extemporaneously (too long, too little time to prepare), so I have to use a manuscript. I would expect the typographical requirements for a speech manuscript are different than for, say, a newspaper article: It has to be very readable even from a slightly larger than usual distance (it may be on a lectern), it must be easy to find where are you where after saying a few words or sentenced without reading them, abut it should also not require more pages than necessary.

So what fonts, what spacing, what justification should I use? Are there proven standards for that? What do professionals (e.g. speech writers for politicians) do?

2015/08/26
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8/26/2015 10:46:00 AM

Accepted Answer

Most politicians on camera are probably using teleprompters. Teleprompters don't use the more impressive typography. They are almost always white on black, with a big sans-serif font. Sometimes they are all caps-sometimes not. If the speech is printed, it was probably done by a speech writer or assistant, with little consideration given to typography at all (after all, no one but the speaker will even see it).

The correct answer is really going to be based on what you find easiest to read and follow. Since you are printing this on paper, consider:

  1. Using a sans-serif font with a large X-height and open apertures. (Good old Helvetica/Arial meets these requirements, is familiar, and is not distracting)
  2. Use a generous leading so you don't get lost when shifting to the next line
  3. Create visual anchors for places you know you are going to start/stop. If you anticipate questions or are going to involve the audience at all, you want some way to quickly find your spot, such as using a bold face for the first few words.
  4. Consider a blank space between paragraphs--when you finish talking about a general concept, that's a natural time to pause and gauge the audience. The extra space is ugly, but creates very clear blocks of text.
  5. Practice! Listening to someone read off a piece of paper is just as boring for the audience as it is for you.
2015/08/26
17
8/26/2015 1:18:00 PM