Re[2]: Re. (Sans?) Serif

Subject: Re[2]: Re. (Sans?) Serif
From: "Arlen P. Walker" <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 09:18:00 -0600

On that happy note, any of you "serif fonts are easier to read than
sans serif" DTP apologists are welcome to explain to me exactly why a
book set in ITC Garamond, Tiffany or Bookman is more readable just
because the font has serifs, than the same book set in Helvetica,
Franklin Gothic or Futura.

I can give you personal experience, but that's all (aside from the unnamed study
I mentioned in my first post). My mailer uses a sans serif font, and I
continually misread words in it, and have to concentrate harder to read it. (Why
haven't I changed it? Laziness, plus the fact that Courier doesn't work too well
on screen at that size. As has been said, sans serifs tend to look better at
small sizes.)

I think the reason is that the serifs tend to tie all the characters in a word
together into one recognizable pattern, enabling me to recognize an entire word
in one gulp, so to speak, rather than piecing together the discrete letter
shapes of sans serif type into a word.

Having said that, I probably should recognize that this is probably a result of
the fact that 99+% of the reading material I have encountered in my life uses
serif for body text, and that had these percentages been reversed I would
probably be making a case for sans serif as opposed to serif. And I suppose I
could train myself to read sans serif as well as I read serif.

But the larger question is who are we (as technical communicators) that we
should dictate to our audience what font style they should be comfortable with?
I'll agree with the poster who said the choice should be dictated by the
audience. If our audience is more comfortable with sans serif, we should use it.
If they are more comfortable with serif, we should use it.

The fonts we choose are, after all, nothing more than tools which we employ to
convey our meaning to the audience. Just like the type of screw determines which
screwdriver we should use to drive it, the audience should determine what type
of font we use to drive our information.


Have fun,
Arlen
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 124

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
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