BNR: …Apart from all your second-guessing of your writing itself, I’ve noticed that you’re really hard on yourself for using a font based on your handwriting to letter your frames.Related dessert triptych: Khoi Vinh on 1) the discomfort and obsolescence of precise penmanship. 2) Josh Fruhlinger reprints the primary source of the Bechdel Test. 3) And last but not least! Alison Bechdel’s Em Dashes.
AB: I do feel guilty about it, like it’s somehow cheating to use a digital font, and to not actually hand-letter my work. But at the same time, I have these lengthy passages of quotations from [Donald] Winnicott or from Virginia Woolf that I have obsessively hand-lettered.
BNR: So interesting: the parts that aren’t your language.
AB: Yeah. In fact those things are treated as drawings in the book, even though they’re text. I frame them as a drawing and often overlay them with my digital narration. It’s almost like I’m giving those words more attention than my own words, but not really.
BNR: When I read about your font, I had the image of you sitting there trying to decide which —
AB: Actually, I basically did that. This guy had me write five or six versions of each letter, and then he kind of averaged them out.
BNR: Does it help with the niggly copyediting problems — its/it’s and whatnot — that pedants like me notice in a lot of graphic novels?
AB: Yeah, it enables me to make corrections of typos or to make last-minute editing changes in a way that would be just way too onerous to do by hand. You’d have to go in and manually erase and re-draw the “it’s” and take the apostrophe out and move the space. It would take you forever; it’s insane. So I feel like I’m able to write more carefully because I’m using a digital font. A lot of cartoonists, their stuff is filled with typos. It’s part of the charm, but I feel like my kind of writing I can’t do that. I can’t live with that.
Hello! I’m Emily Gordon, an editor, critic, copywriter, and internet lover since 1992. Emdashes, born in 2004, spent its formative years as a New Yorker fan blog. (The project garnered some nice compliments and press.) It’s now a collection of conversations—generally civilized—about punctuation, magazines, movies, design, and other things that stir me.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a small army of culture writers, editors, and artists. You can read all about the people who've helped build Emdashes here at “Who We?” (That’s a New Yorker joke. Old habits die hard.)
I welcome submissions, questions, corrections, and ardent, obsessive contributors. I also host occasional book-related contests and giveaways. Questioners and publishers, just email me.
Looking for The New Yorker magazine? Kudos on your classy taste. Here’s how to contact The New Yorker.
The original Emdashes pencil logo was designed by Jennifer Hadley, based on a 1943 Dorothy Gray ad.