Advice · Comedy · Opinion · Words

Papyrus: Looking Terrible Since 332 BC

One of the downsides of doing lots of formatting and design work is you begin to recognize common fonts.

“But why is that a downside? Isn’t that cool to be able to look at a brochure and go ‘Calibre, Calibre, Times New Roman?’”


Because most people use the same fonts over and over and over again. And they don’t use the good ones, they use the cool ones.

Cool circa 1997.

Back then, my mom worked at a teensy little gift shop called The Blue Wren that sold baskets of lotions and candies and teas aimed straight at middle-aged women and their friends. It also used Papyrus almost exclusively for its logos and letters.

People loved the font, complimented it, asked again and again where this it had come from. It was such a unique font, so pretty!

papyrus 5

It is also no longer the dynasty of Tutankhamun, which is the era this font brings to mind every time I see it—right after, “Gosh, whoever designed this has never taken a design class or ventured out their front door in the past fifteen years.”

The Blue Wren is long gone, and scented hand-lotion has gone mainstream.  But a certain sort of business still sees Papyrus as their go-to font of choice. You know them, you’re picturing one right now. It’s a small shop, dim and granola. It heavily advertises the fact that everything they offer, from incense to rocks to foot-rubs, is GMO-free and organic as poo.

To them, I suppose, the “old” look of Papyrus draws them in. Something about its uneven edges and swooping tails sings “Before technology, we knew harmony!”

You know what else we knew back then?

papyrus 2

I don’t really go to those shops, in case you couldn’t tell, and their use of Papyrus probably wouldn’t bother me that much–except that more mainstream places seem to be getting into the spirit of Papyrus recently. The menu at the BBQ joint the other night was written exclusively in this font, as was a package of potato chips I picked up at the grocery store. And I wasn’t in the organic section.

People. People.

If you went to school during the 90’s, at some point, you had to write a report or essay or some sort of presentation. And chances are, you headed that work with some badass Word Art from Microsoft.

Word art

So why is anyone still using Papyrus? It’s one of those fonts that keeps coming back, like a bad mono infection. Just when you think it’s safe to go out, BAM, there it is, all over a shop window so you’re left wheezing in the street.

What, what, what are you doing.

sassy gay friend

You know the one place fake Egyptian Papyrus is acceptable? I’ll tell you where. It’s the one, and only one time I have ever deigned to inflict this font upon the world: my sixth grade social studies project on Ancient Egypt.

I made an ancient Egyptian newspaper, because elementary school.

papyrus 6

To sum up what we’ve learned today, I’ve made this handy-dandy guide.

papyrus 1

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever found a horribly-recognizable font? Any fonts that really get under your skin? How about simply incongruous uses of an ordinarily okay one? Share with us in the comments below.

And while you’re at it, take a look at my post on Comic Sans: the devil in font-form.

Hey, did you know I have a book for sale? It’s not written in Comic Sans or Papyrus! And all the reviews so far have mentioned not being able to put it down. Go buy it here!

Thanks for looking.

[Photo from Sassy Gay Friend series on Youtube.]

12 thoughts on “Papyrus: Looking Terrible Since 332 BC

  1. Bless this post. I laughed out loud. I am so sharing this one as well. To answer your question “Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever found a horribly-recognizable font?” well…you know. Comic Sans on a university assignment. Somebody stick this kid’s head in a bucket of ice water. As for myself, I shake the dust from my sandals.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Ooooooooh it’s an 8-bit font. Those tend to be used appropriately, IMHO, so I don’t actually have big complaints on that. But courier is just terrible. Whenever I see something like “submit your story in courier” I want to hit whoever decided that.


    1. I’m so sorry. That’s awful.

      Mine too, but I was teaching English and the ‘A’ in Comic Sans is the way we write A’s, so there was an excuse. But still. There’s better fonts out there.


  2. 5-6 years ago, I read the paperbacks of Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. All of them were written in a font similar to Consolas font on MS Word. I loved that font. Though i am yet to find another book that’s written in that font..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No wonder you haven’t; it’s sans serif. Unless your book had a serif version of it?

      I can see a sans-serif font working in something contemporary or sci-fi, but it’s also a bit of a risk. They’re fatiguing on the eyes after a while.


      1. I crave that font. Especially the letters in lower case. Although whenever i write on ms word i use Californian FB


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