Serif vs. sans serif?

Subject: Serif vs. sans serif?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 12:57:52 -0400

Brigitte Johnston reports: <<My company's manuals and reports (mostly
distributed in hard copy for use in training classes) are all currently
produced in sans serif type (with full justification). Information in these
manuals is of a somewhat technical nature, but it's not "rocket science" nor
software- or hardware- related. I'm trying to convince folks here to change
to serif type (ragged right). After 12 years of writing, I still I feel it's
easier on the eye, and more "friendly" in appearance... How do you think I
could best persuade "them" to make the change?>>

Serif fonts aren't inherently more legible than sans serif, despite myths
you may hear to the contrary; this is why many European and Nordic nations
standardize on sans serif and continue to read productively. The issue is
whether you've chosen a legible sans serif font, not whether the font is
sans serif; Arial, for example, is a lousy font in many sizes and styles
because the lower-case L's and I's tend to be indistinguishable. Moreover,
dozens of other factors (kerning, leading, etc.) can turn an otherwise
legible font into a challenge for the eyes. Finally, typeface choice is a
highly subjective thing, and many designers in particular believe that sans
serif looks more friendly and modern than serif; others prefer serif. YMMV.
The only really good way to resolve this issue is to ask the readers of your
documents; if you get enough objections to the current font, then you've got
a strong case for change. If not, then you don't!

--Geoff Hart, FERIC
580 boul. St-Jean, Pointe-Claire, Quebec H9R 3J9
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca


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