Re: Font Size(s)

Subject: Re: Font Size(s)
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 15:14:29 -0500

Bruce et al.--

If by "the actual letter and the space around it" you mean the space
from the tallest ascender to the lowest descender, you are

It is impossible to give a particular point size and say that means
that *any* font is either too large, too small, or even "just right"
for that matter. (I presume that neither Goldilocks nor any of the
three bears are involved...!)

Font legibility depends upon much more than mere point size. One of
the most significant dimensions is the "x height"--the body size of
the letters. Two fonts may look entirely of different size even if
they are rendered at the same point size, if one has a small x-height
and the other a large one.

If you doubt this, simply create a single line of whatever size you
normally use. Have half of it in Times or one of its variants, the
other half in Arial (since you undoubedtly have those both installed).
You should find that the Arial looks larger--mostly because of its
larger x-height. Even more pronounced would be to pair Garamond with
Ariel or, better yet, with Futura or Helvetica.

That is why when I am designing a template, I adjust the various font
sizes according to the font used. If it is to have a sans serif font
for heads and a serif for the body, for example, I compare them
carefully to get a good idea of their relative apparent size, and
adjust correspondingly.

For example, if your text is in 12-point Times, a twelve point Arial
heading will appear to be larger. If you want to try to make them
appear the same size, you will probably have to reduce the
Arial--possibly as much as a point--to get the equivalent size.

Other contributors to the apparent size, but in a supporting role,
include the line thickness ornate font with a great
deal of variation, such as a Bodoni, may look less massive than one
with a uniform stroke thickness.

Most word processors automatically apply leading as a percentage of
the selected font size. This is no more than a relatively rough

All of this said, I know of *no* font I would wish to subject a reader
to at 8 point for text. A business card, in which puzzling out a few
words is all that is usually required, is quite a different animal.
Text meant to be read should not be a painful exercise for its reader.

Finally, some consideration should be given to the audience. If you
are publishing for either the general public or for an audience older
than average, for example, you should err if at all on the side of the
many tired eyes in the audience.

Of course, you could do as the original Compact Edition of the Oxford
English Dictionary and pack a magnifying glass with your doc.


On 9/19/05, Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axion -dot- net> wrote:

> When a font is described as 10 points, that means that 10 points is the
> height given for both the actual letter and the space around it. Since
> the letters in some fonts have more
> space around them than the letters in other fonts, that means that one
> 10 point font can look smaller than another 10 point font.


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Font Size(s): From: W. Kelly Oja
Re: Font Size(s): From: Bruce Byfield

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