Re: Readability and point size

Subject: Re: Readability and point size
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 17:02:35 +0000

On 14 Jan 97 at 15:31, Jill Burgchardt wrote:

> Does anyone have any statistics or know of any articles regarding
> use of different point sizes for readability? Specifically, is
> bigger always better (hardcopy documentation)?
> The 12-point standard proposed for body text on our documentation
> seems to waste a lot of space. Since our audience is primarily
> scientists, we think they'd be just as comfortable if we dropped it
> to 9 or 10 point. (We assume they read plenty of technical stuff at
> smaller font sizes.)
> Does any research support our perspective? Please send your
> responses to jburgcha -at- pestilence -dot- ftc -dot- nrcs -dot- usda -dot- gov

Jill, I don't have any studies handy but I did at one time. As for
point size, it is related to the size of your page AND the style/make
of the font (among other things). We use a 10-point Palatino on a
8.5x11 page with a large left white margin. Our customers have
commented very favorably on the look of our docs (ahem!). However, a
10-point Times Roman is smaller. Any docs we have to use Times
Roman, I pop it to 11-point. Generally, 12 point in anything is
rather large, but it depends on the x-height, ascenders, descenders,
margins, page size, etc. so there is no hard and fast rule.

There are a ton of good references on typography, but few relate
directly to technical documentation. You might try searching on the
web for "typography" to see what you can find. To establish our
styles, we looked at lots of commercial documentation and borrowed a
concept here, a concept there, until we finally settled on something
we could live with. I even made my own "clip book" of samples (good
and bad).

Hope that helps.

Jane Bergen
"my opinions are my own..."
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com
AnswerSoft, Inc.

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