Want to be believed? Use the Baskerville font

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Baskerville font

Baskerville: The "king of the fonts". You can download it by clicking on the image

Some stories are so strange they are almost unbelievable. Like the mass flush” ordered by Bulawayo’s municipal government to clean out the city’s sewer system. (A bit gross, but experienced readers here know that Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, is close to my heart.)

Now, if the indirect allusion to human waste wants to make you head for the exit, I had the same sort of reaction when I read this headline in Matt Handal’s Help Everybody Everyday blog. He reported that a New York Times survey had indicated that your chances of winning trust and acceptance in your proposal will be significantly increased if you use the Baskerville font, and if you want the opposite (negative) effect, use Comic Sans.

Your font choice determines “trust” . . . ?”Bug dust,” I thought — a phrase Matt used to describe whether capitalization style is significant in proposal documents.

Whether you capitalize titles in a proposal is bug dust. We’ll debate it endlessly, but it’s a waste of our time.

You wouldn’t choose your heart surgeon based on their use of capitalization. Likewise, an owner doesn’t hire their designer or builder based on their use of capitalization.

I met an in-house attorney once who claimed she hired outside counsel based on criteria like their use of punctuation. If that’s how you hire an attorney, you are an idiot.

New York Times blog weighted agreement

From the New York Times

If professionals want their titles capitalized, let them have it (rules be damned). It’s bug dust and won’t help or hurt your proposal either way.

So, my initial reaction on reading Handal’s report had something of the same impact on my conscious mind as the image of tens of thousands of households in water-short Bulawayo all heading for their bathrooms at exactly 7:00 p.m. to, well, flush their toilets. “Bug dust” — or maybe Handal was trying some strange credibility experiment.

Then I checked to discover the original source and, unless the New York Times is really running an April Fools Day joke in late September, this two-part posting by Errol Morris validates that Morris actually conducted credibility test, completed by 45,000 readers, which validated that Baskerville is (according to Cornell professor David Dunning), “the king of the fonts”.

New York Times weighted typeface disagreementBaskerville is different from the rest. I’d call it a 1.5% advantage, in that that’s how much higher agreement is with it relative to the average of the other fonts. That advantage may seem small, but if that was a bump up in sales figures, many online companies would kill for it. The fact that font matters at all is a wonderment.

There. If you want your proposals to sell, use Baskerville. If you want to be questioned and have people disagree with you, use Comic Sans.  And maybe, with these results, we should run a test to determine if whether using professional title capitalization is actually significant, or just bug dust.  After all, they did flush quite a few toilets in Bulawayo to clear out the sewer system.

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