Communication Skills

JS Tip 45: From the Writing Workshops: Using the Appropriate Font

(We're using a lot of different fonts with this tip. The tip may not format correctly on some screens.) 

Fonts—typefaces—for business or technical writing fall into two families: serif and sans-serif. Advertising and design use other families.

Serif fonts have decorative lines or hooks:

        a   b   c

The lines or hooks—the serifs—impel the eye forward and make serif fonts easier to read. Your font list includes serif fonts such as Times New Roman and Palatino. Use serif fonts for text because the serifs move the eye along the text line: 

         We examined the business history and found everything in order.

                  not

         We examined the business history and found everything in order.

Sans-serif fonts are starker; they have no decorative lines or hooks:

         a     b     c

They catch and hold the eye. Your font list includes sans-serif fonts such as Arial and Helvetica. Use sans-serif fonts for headings because they grab and hold the eye:

         Background on the Situation

                  rather than

         Background on the Situation

Notice how the sans-serif stands out? Grabs your eye? But remember, this is guidance. Look at newspapers and magazines. The text will usually be serif; the headings will usually be sans-serif.

We're grateful to the engineers at WesTech Engineering; they inspired this discussion and this tip. 

If you've got a writing question, let us know. If you've got a leadership question, let us know. If you've got a mortuary science question . . . wow. Good luck