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Fonts Reconsidered #2: Print Documents

Last week I rambled at length about fonts appropriate for e-mails. The main requirements for e-mail are legibility and clarity, so you should use fonts like Tahoma and Verdana, which were designed specifically for screen viewing, with simple formatting. But what should you do when what you’re working on will be read on paper?

This is where serif fonts come in. Tahoma and Verdana are sans-serif fonts (see this link for an explanation of serifs), which aren’t as visually pleasing as a good serif font. The little “feet” on a serif font lead the eye along the line of text and the strokes with varying widths add a smooth feeling vaguely reminiscent of calligraphy. While sans serif fonts aim for legibility, fonts with serifs provide readability.

My favorite fonts with serifs are from the Baskerville and Garamond font families. These two fonts are straightforward, classic, and readily available. They both have very interesting histories, which you can read about here and here. A lot of people use Times New Roman, especially students (MLA format!), but I personally prefer Baskerville and Garamond.

So when you’re choosing a font for a memo, letter, or résumé, don’t choose Arial or Tahoma! Go with a nice, smooth font with serifs that will make your document professional and aesthetically pleasing.


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