Robin Rendle writes about writing about typography, but he has lessons for all of us who want to write well.

Though I don’t entirely agree with his viewpoint about the particular sentence he criticises. Here it is:

A revival is based on historical models, made suitable for contemporary use, adapted to the typographical and technical needs of today, but nevertheless relies on a personal response to the historical style.

– The Rosart Project, The Rosart Project

The ‘revival’ it’s talking about involves recreating old typefaces, and/or building new versions of them. It’s from a site called The Rosart Project, set up by some students of typography.

Rendle’s essay at an improved version of that sentence is this:

Type designers will often look at letterforms that were made in the past and then redraw them for modern day use. This is called a “revival” by the type community but I like to think of it as a remix: a type designer will unavoidably apply their own style and harmonies, their own deviations and melodies to the song.

Every remix is different, every remix is important.

– Robin Rendle, Writing about Typography

Which is certainly brighter, has a bit more sparkle, and arguably is easier to understand. But I don’t think the original is that bad. Certainly not as bad as Rendle thinks. He says:

what does any of this mean? The words make sense but it’s written in a style that’s familiar to anyone that reads about the field of typography. It’s what’s known to folks outside the field as “academic writing” but it’s what I consider to simply be bad writing—it’s waffling and unclear.

– Robin Rendle, Writing about Typography

It’s what is often called dry, I’d say, certainly compared to the alternative. But I don’t think it deserves quite the fire he brings to it. Of course he’s only doing it – he says, and I believe him – because he loves the project, and wants to ‘see the whole typographic community break the shackles of this style of writing.’

Which is fair enough. I’d certainly rather read a piece in Rendle’s style than much academic writing. So I guess maybe I do agree with him after all. His final advice to the typographic community could apply just about anywhere where words are used:

write to swoon, to convince, to make a stranger fall in love. Abandon the academic style, because it’s making your beautiful work so very boring.

– Robin Rendle, Writing about Typography