Comic sans font

A clever sixth-grader in Pennsylvania has figured out that the U.S. government could cut its annual printing costs by up to $400 million simply by switching to less ink-intensive fonts — and smaller organizations or individuals could cut their printer-ink costs by as much as 24 percent.

CNN Money shares the story of Suvir Mirchandani, who originally was looking for ways his schoolteachers might reduce their printing costs. So he made a careful study of various handouts and worksheets the school gave him — or, more specifically, he studied and compared the different fonts and typefaces used to print them.

Computer-printer manufacturers make far more money selling ink than printers; as Mirchandani noted, “Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume.”

By making precise measurements of the size (and ink coverage) of identical letters printed in Times New Roman, Garamond, Century Gothic and Comic Sans, he determined that if all staff in his school district switched to the thin-stroked Garamond font for official school or classroom printouts, its annual cost for printer ink would drop by 24%, an annual savings of about $21,000 for the school.

Mirchandani's teachers encouraged him to submit his results to the Journal of Emerging Investigators (a scientific journal for teenaged students), and the JEI in turn encouraged Mirchandani to apply his investigative methods to a much larger organization — the federal government.

On that much larger scale, he found, the simple act of switching from thick, heavy-ink fonts to thin-stroked ones like Garamond could cut federal printing costs by $400 million per year -- or about $1.26 per year for each of the estimated 317 million of us.

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