Re: Typeface discussion

Subject: Re: Typeface discussion
From: Richard Irvine <ricirv -at- PANDANUS -dot- NTU -dot- EDU -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1993 15:14:49 +0000

It is interesting to note that most of the discussion about serif fonts
being more readable has been centred around "cultural" factors. i.e. they
are only easier because we are more used to them.

Personally I think that there is another reason why serifs are generally
easier to read, but it is necessary to understand how people recognise
words in the first place.

When we are reading, there are three basic clues that help us recognise words:
1. The phonics and the letters themselves. We obviously need to know what
each letter combination is and what hteir sounds are, but if that was all
we used, how come most of you can r___ this s_nt__nc_ with man_ of the
_ett__s missining f_om w__ds?
2. The context and the syntax of the sentence also provide clues. In fact
using passages of text with _____ missing is a common teaching ________ in
the teaching of reading. Even though some have inserted different _______
in the blanks, the meaning is not lost.
3. The third clue we use id the shape of the word. This is difficult to
demonstrate in ASCII format, but it is a vital clue in recognising words.

The point is that serif fonts tend to tie the letters of a word together
and make the shape more pronounced. Sans serif fonts may be easier to
identify individual letters, but we read words, NOT individual letters.
This also explains why all caps are so hard to read. All words have the
same rectangular shape.

Richard Irvine
Institute of TAFE
Northern Territory University
Box 40146 _*-_/\
Casuarina / \
NT Australia 0811 \ _---__ /
Phone: (international) 61 89 466932 V
Fax: 61 89 270612
e-mail: ricirv -at- pandanus -dot- ntu -dot- edu -dot- au
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