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What’s in a Font?

By Roberta Gubbins posted 02-15-2019 03:08 PM


You’ve spent time researching and writing your latest blog post, but have you given thought to the font you use for display? Visual elements are just as important to the success of your blog as the words you select. The font you use helps transmit the message you want to impart to your readers.

What is a font?

A font is a design term for a set of characters which include lower and uppercase letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and symbols. A font combines typeface and other qualities, such as size, pitch, and spacing.

Originally, the term "font" referred to a size and style of typeface. In recent years, however, the terms have been used interchangeably by companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google to describe a typeface. Thus, it is acceptable to refer to a typeface as a font.

Serif fonts are fonts with small extensions on the edges of the letters such as a horizontal line at the end of a t. Examples of fonts in the serif font include Times New Roman or Georgia.

Sans-Serif fonts don’t have the little lines, and examples include Arial or Helvetica.

Script fonts mimic human handwriting. Lucinda Calligraphi or Comic Sans are examples of script fonts.

Do fonts convey emotion and personality?

In 2006, Wichita State University’s Software Usability Research Lab conducted a study of fonts to determine if they had different emotions and personalities. Based on a survey of over 500 participants it was found:

  • Serif fonts were rated as “stable, practical, and mature”
  • Sans-serif fonts had no particular personality
  • Script fonts were perceived as “feminine, funny, and casual”

Other studies show that certain fonts cause specific emotions. For example, in a study in 2014, medical patients received care instructions in different fonts; where the fonts were difficult to read, the patients perceived the tasks as harder to accomplish.

The semantic memory associated with fonts is said to influence how readers feel about the content they’re reading. The IRS uses Helvetica on its forms which influences how we feel about the font depending on our prior experiences with taxes.

What should you consider when choosing a font?

Is it serif or sans-serif?

Serifs are considered better for large bodies of text because they tie words and sentences together for an easier reading experience. Serifs also have characters dating back to their historical beginnings which give them authority and a certain gravitas.

Sans-serif first emerged in the 19th century for use in advertisements. It conveys a clean modernity that could appeal to a certain audience and to those reading digitally.

Regardless of what you decide to use, make sure your call to action and contact information are in fonts that are bold, clear, and motivate readers to act.

The display of your content is as important as the message you’re sending, so try out different fonts to find the one that sends the right message—a font the elicits the emotions you’re seeking from your readers.

After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.

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