I would like to adapt the proverb dē gustibus nōn est disputandum ("there's no accounting for taste") to refer to formatting—the layout of text on a page, the font selection, the use of italics, and so on.

Is there a Classical word for this "formatting"? I know there was no equivalent to modern typography in ancient Rome, but perhaps some Classical author wrote about the aesthetics of arranging words in inscriptions, or about different styles of handwriting?

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I would suggest simply the word forma. It means all kinds of things related to shape, size, form, and such. The linked entry in L&S (I.B.2) gives "outline, plan, design (of an architect, etc.)". Formatting is the design of a page much like how that part of the dictionary entry describes the design of a house. I found no attestations related to writing, but this seems to be a word for design in many senses.

The word forma is very general, so I quite like the maxim de formis non est disputandum as a general reminder to focus on content rather than shape. If you want a more specific word to be able to make distinction with something you call forma, then perhaps formatio (post-Augustan) is a good alternative.


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