How To Choose Body Text Fonts

Body text must be readable at varying point sizes

Different sizes of typographical pieces assembled in mosaic of letters

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The bulk of what we read is body copy. It's the novels, magazine articles, newspaper stories, contracts, and web pages we read day after day. Text fonts are the typefaces used for body copy. Body copy requires legible, easy-to-read text fonts. Here are tips on how to choose your fonts.

Check the Font at 14 Points or Less

Choose a typeface that is readable at body text font sizes of 14 points or less. In some cases, text fonts may be larger, such as for beginning readers or an audience with vision impairments. When browsing a font book or specimen pages, look at how the font appears at smaller sizes, not just at the larger samples.

Consider Serif Fonts for Text Fonts

In the United States at least, serif faces are the norm for most books and newspapers, making them familiar and comfortable for body text. Choose a font that blends in and doesn't distract the reader with oddly shaped letters, or extremes in x-height, descenders, or ascenders.

In general (with many exceptions) consider serif faces for a subdued, formal, or serious look. Likewise, consider sans serif fonts for a crisper, bolder, or more informal tone.

Avoid script or handwriting typefaces as body text fonts. Some exceptions: cards and invitations where the text is set in short lines with extra line spacing. Save your fancy or unusual typefaces for use in headlines, logos, and graphics. For body text, they are almost impossible to read comfortably, if at all.

Avoid monospaced typefaces for body copy. They draw too much attention to the individual letters distracting the reader from the message.

Consider How Other Text Will Look With Your Body Text Fonts

The perfect body text fonts lose their effectiveness if they're paired with headline fonts and fonts used for captions, subheads, pull-quotes and other elements that are too similar or incompatible. Mix and match your body fonts and headline fonts carefully.

Tips

Two more suggestions:

  • View font selections in print. Don't rely solely on an on-screen display or a small sample. Print the fonts you're considering at body-copy size in paragraphs of varying length.
  • Use Web friendly-fonts. Fonts suitable for print do not always translate well to the screen for Web use. When you re-purpose print documents to the Web, consider whether the same font is still appropriate.