The Best Fonts for Readability

By Nicole Schmoll

No matter how compelling your language, if your writing is illegible, no one will understand what you are trying to communicate. That principle holds true for handwritten letters and doctors’ notes as well as fonts used in printed documents or online Web pages. While no font can convince your reader to agree with you, there are a few basic principles you can follow to make sure your reader, or viewer, can read your message.


Legibility refers to the design of a given font. Design gives a font character, personality and makes it stand out. The design of a font allows it to communicate mood and emotion so that it works with your chosen letters to move your reader to action or reaction. Generally, the more design a font has, the more legible it is. Legible fonts don’t call attention to themselves; they appear invisible to the reader so that the reader focuses only on the words the letters spell and does not pause to consider the look and feel of the individual letters. Legible fonts are not excessively light or bold and have little or no serifs on them. Researchers found that font size was critical in determining legibility. Size 14 in sans serif fonts such as Arial and Courier as well as serif fonts like Comic and Times were good fonts for legibility.


Readability refers to how you lay out your selected font on a printed or website page. You can make your words easy to read by choosing a legible font and then arranging that font in a readable way. For example, white space in between letters and lines as well as paragraph breaks and images or offset quotes are all techniques used to make fonts readable. Choose fonts that fit your purpose which, if it is to convey information or text-heavy messages, should be transparent, sans-serif, light typeface, open-counter fonts.In a study published in "Behavior and Information Technology," Volume 21, in 2002, researchers found that the spacing between characters played a major role in whether or not readers felt a font was easy to read. Choose fonts with generous x-heights like Tahoma and Verdana and adequate space between letters like Georgia to ensure its readability. If you are trying to decide between multiple fonts for readability, compare them in type tester program.

Best Print Fonts

Some of the most readable fonts for printed documents include Helvetica, Garamond, Times and Lucida. These fonts share a light weight, small-serif, open-counter design and have been used for decades in printed documents. They are easy to read and available on most word processing programs, making documents typed in them easy to edit by multiple users. Set your fonts in a dark color such as black or charcoal gray against a white background in a size 12 font to make them readable to a wide range of people.

Best Online Fonts

Verdana, Trebuchet, Arial and Georgia are crisp, clean fonts that translate into good readability for online viewers. The first three are considered sans-serif fonts; while Georgia is classified as a serif font, it was designed for the Internet and for use in online documents so it can be reduced to smaller font sizes, such as 8, and retain its clear, readable structure.