Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica? Out of the hundreds of fonts available to you, which one do you choose?
Before choosing a font, you must understand your audience. Are they reading your document online or on paper? Do they have good eye-sight or weak? What tone do you want for your document – friendly, humorous, or commanding? Once you understand the situation, you can start on font selection.
Remember – Readability is always the foremost consideration!
1. Your first choice is for either serif or sans-serif fonts.
- Have serifs (A serif is a small line trailing from the edges of letters and symbols.)
- Guide the reader’s eye to follow the line of type
- Are commonly used in printed documentation
- Examples are Times New Roman, Century and Baskerville
- Do not have serifs
- Are commonly used on computer screens
- Examples are Arial, Helvetica and Verdana
2. Your second choice is for the general appearance of the font. Choose a font that has the right look for your document. Are you designing a wedding invitation? Use a calligraphy font like Lucida Calligraphy. Are you designing a technical document to be read online? Use a simple sans-serif font like Verdana.
3. Your third choice is whether to use only one font per document, or add another. The general rule is to stay with one font type for all of the body text. Headings can be either the same font in a larger size, or a noticeably different font for emphasis, that still conveys the correct message. Switching fonts can be confusing for the reader, unless you do so for emphasis. For example, warnings may be in a bolder or more dramatic font, if you wish to bring attention to them.
4. Your fourth choice is font size. Choose a size for the body text that allows readability on a small screen. If you can set your copy to 10px and you can still make out what it says, then that’s a good indication you’ve chosen a readable typeface. As a general rule, designers like to set their body copy at the very least at 12px. Most, however, chose a larger size like 14px, which is even better for readability.
For all other choices, such as color and spacing, just keep readability as the primary requirement. As a writer, it is vital to familiarize yourself with the different font families, so that you can easily choose the right one to get your message across.
For interesting information on fonts, here are some links you might enjoy.