RE: Typeface for print and online documentation

Subject: RE: Typeface for print and online documentation
From: salatas <salatas -at- micron -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 13:15:59 -0600

Jessica Pease wrote:

Do any of you have data on what typefaces are easier to read in print vs.
online documentation? I tended to like Arial (small size, usually 10-12) for
everything, until someone casually mentioned that Arial was hard to read on
paper (or did they say "online?"). Any preferences (backed up by reason) out
there in techwhirl-land?


The following is from an article in the August 2000 issue of Technical
Communication, Guidelines for Designing and Evaluating the Display of
Information on the Web, by Thomas R. Williams:

"3.1 Use sans serif typefaces for display on screen.
"Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, there is no compelling evidence that,
for normal reading, serif typefaces are easier to read than sans serif
typefaces (Gould and others 1987). On screen, in fact, serifs present the
reader with several problems. First, serifs may display irregularly when
they fall on the boundaries between pixels; this is especially problematic
when using smaller type sizes. Serifs also must occupy, at the minimum, one
pixel. This fact can make them appear blocky and disproportionately large,
especially when displayed in small type sizes or on low-resolution screens.
If, however, serif faces are chosen, they should be chosen from among
members of the Egyptian (slab or block serif) group, and they should be
displayed at relatively large sizes...

"Also consider choosing typefaces from among the growing number of faces
that are being designed specifically for display on screen..., such as
Verdana, a sans serif typeface, and Georgia, a serif face."

The Gould citation is as follows:

Gould, J. D., L. Alfaro, R. Finn, B. Haupt, and A. Minuto. 1987. "Reading
from CRT displays can be as fast as reading from paper." Human factors

For more on online typography, see the Web Page Design for Designers site at, which offers the following:

"Some newer fonts such as Verdana, Georgia and Trebuchet have been designed
to look good on a Web page. They have been designed to be sympathetic with
the natural pixel grid. Not just their letter shapes, but their body heights
and letter-spacing have been optimised for screen legibility."

Salette Latas
salatas -at- micron -dot- com


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