What is the Easiest Font to Read?

From The Book Designer:

If you’ve never formatted a book before, you might not know exactly how much work goes into it. It might seem easy and uniform—it just needs to look like a book, right?—but you’d be surprised just how many decisions you’ll need to make if you’re formatting on your own. Among the most important of these will be the font you choose for your book. 

Think of it like this: picking a bad font for your book is much like picking a bad cover. Even if you’ve got the best content in the world, a reader is much less likely to buy or read it if it looks cheaply or badly made. 

Let’s talk a little about fonts, why they matter, and how to pick the perfect one for your project. 

. . . .

What is the easiest font to read in a book?

So, before we talk about exactly which fonts to use, let’s go over some terminology. The first choice you’ll need to make is serif v. sans serif. What does that mean? 

Serif Fonts:

Serif fonts are those fonts with little ridges on them. Think Times New Roman or Georgia—the little feet and embellishments on certain letters make the words flow together in a way that isn’t confusing. It keeps the eye moving, basically. 

Sans-Serif Fonts:

A sans-serif font does exactly the opposite. These fonts don’t have these details on them, making the letters smooth and unconnected. Think Arial or Calibri. The space between letters makes each letter clearer, which can enhance readability. 

Generally, books are written in serif fonts because of how they lead the reader’s eye. Because the space between letters helps readability, sans serif fonts are generally reserved for large text editions of books. 

While there’s no solid consensus on exactly which font is the best for your book, a few popular choices are: Georgia, Tisa, Merriweather, and Rooney.

. . . .

You don’t want to stick out

When you’re picking a font for a book, you don’t want something that the reader is going to notice. You don’t want it to stick out as a strange choice—in something like a logo, you might want a memorable, notable font, but in a book, you want it to blend in.

Sometimes, on the copyright page of a book, the font will be listed with the other publication info. Check for this the next time you’re reading a physical book and see if you notice any patterns. Do fantasy books tend to stick to a certain font family? Do nonfiction books? Keep that info in mind when you go to pick out a font for yourself, so you’re picking something that will blend in without the reader even realizing it.

You want to stay on-theme

Picking a neutral font, or a font you’ve seen before, shouldn’t be a choice you make at random. While you don’t want your choice to be overt to the reader, you also want it to be intentional. 

We rarely think of words and letters as ‘images,’ but they are! And the way you choose to present your words will impact the way a reader thinks about the text, even if only in a very subtle way. You know how some people get flashbacks to college papers when they see Times New Roman? We want to avoid that. 

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

6 thoughts on “What is the Easiest Font to Read?”

  1. With all due respect to Ms Russell:

    The OP is grossly inadequate in what it considers, probably because its primary purpose is not to educate but to entice readers to purchase the “Advanced Publishing Kit” and/or “Advanced Starter Kit.” Bad clickbait, no cookie. (Well, of course no cookie, I have an ad-blocker running and manually set my browser to reject third-party cookies.) In no particular order, the OP should have at least mentioned:

    * Don’t look at just the roman face. Look at other faces used in the text, too — almost always italic, often bold, sometimes small caps. Make sure that they all work, and especially when placed next to each other (Times is notorious for the right-hand edge of italics running into capital roman letters; some common fonts have very little distinction between bold and normal-weight because the bold is really supposed to be just for titling and captions).

    * Look at the numbers, too, especially if you’re doing nonfiction of any kind. Some font families that diminish the height of the number 1 are really appalling choices for anything with footnote/endnote references, tables of numbers, or strings of numbers — and that includes standbys like Goudy Old Style.

    * Ensure that the font doesn’t denigrate its non-Anglo characters if there are any. To pick on the Times family again, if there’s a German or Polish placename in the work, you’re going to have problems with typesizes smaller than about 11 points or larger than about 13. And the less said about Arial for Spanish (especially the ll ligature), the better…

    * Consider things like line length and margin formatting, too. San serif fonts are supposedly “best” for screen use (although I suspect that judgment is out of date with post-2010 screen densities), but are also more prone to creating visible “rivers” when the text is justified badly (and most ereaders do it badly). And how do hyphens look if it’s justified? Are hyphens visually distinct from the n and m dash (in Calibri and Georgia… not so much)?

    * Consider the cost and license terms, too. If you will be embedding and/or subsetting the font, are you allowed to do it? Even if you technically can without the license, that assumes that the licensor won’t make things unpleasant (for you or your readers) some time in the future.

    * Remember, too, that many more readers are starting to respect font embedding than even five years ago. By five years from now, I suspect that font embedding and subsetting will be the default for all e-readers then being sold, whether hardware or software. It’s therefore useful to actually think about these subjects in substance.

      • One note I should make:

        My primary experience is outside of narrative fiction, and therefore a lot of my concerns seem irrelevant. I’ve spent time — some would say too much time — on the Dark Side of the Editorial Desk in eight of the thirteen publishing industries. That specifically includes scientific/technical/reference, serious nonfiction, educational/academic, periodical, and a variety of others that are completely distinct from “narrative fiction” that is the presumed default of writing and publishing advice (and is neither the majority of the market nor even the largest segment of the market). Therefore, take my comments as information and not prescription; it might turn out, for the specific work(s) you’re trying to put out there in the market, that none of those considerations I mentioned matter (like Americanized, heavily-illustrated “lifestyle”-oriented cookbooks!).

        There is no workable one-size-fits-all default that does not have major exceptions for significant publishing industries (“markets” is the wrong word here). That begins before writing and extends all the way to works-in-readers’-hands. The OP is an example — probably a blind spot, not intent, although there are more than enough of those — of why, how, and hidden agendas. We won’t mention the frequent condescension toward any participant (writer, reader, publisher, librarian, bookstore, whatever) whose needs or preferences differ from the guru’s, which seems minimal in the OP but is frequently overt, especially among those more in the “business” and/or “writing” segments than in “production.”

  2. I may have told this story here before… pardon me if so…

    Before I published my first Indie novel, I did a full dummy print book with two-page spreads of text in a few of my potential favorite fonts (for body text). I varied sizes, leadings (line spacing), margins, etc. Also threw in more pages of heads and subheads, scene break dingbats, and more. It was money (and time) well spent. I could see exactly what I liked and why. I ended up going with Adobe Caslon Pro (I started with 11.5/14 but gradually increased it to 12/15 in my latest books; aging Boomer eyes like it that way!)

    But I hated the way Caslon rendered the question mark in Italics. So I replaced every single one of them with Garamond. Just that one style of one letter (easy enough with Search & Replace). I was surprised at how many lines of questions I had in Italic.

    This is for print only. I don’t worry about it for ebooks.

    P.S. Was sorry to hear about Joel Friedlander’s passing a while ago. I exchanged some good comments with The Book Designer. Not sure how I feel about his site continuing on without him.

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