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I've written many documents at school, but there is one thing I'm always struggling with: Font types.

I never know which font to choose for which occasion. At the moment I'm writing a document that is supposed to be very professional. Personally I really like the font "Verdana", but I don't think it really suits for a professional font.

I usually just use Times New Roman or Calibri on Microsoft Word 2010.

Is there some sort of 'best practice' for fonts in professional documents?

Thanks in advance!

  • This seems like there is no definitive answer and answers that may be given would be entirely based on personal opinion. Please see the help center for a list of what shouldn't be asked about. – Matt Ellen Feb 5 '15 at 10:19
  • This is pretty much Your Mileage May Vary, but you can rarely go wrong with Times. Calibri and Verdana were designed as screen fonts, and are not intended for print. Times is clear, sober, and easy to read. – Lauren Ipsum Feb 5 '15 at 11:38
  • There is lots of "best practice" regarding choosing fonts. Unfortunately typography is pretty complex topic... So a "best practice" that gives a "choose this font" advice would generally be a design document for the company, publication, or the site, where somebody who hopefully has some idea of typography has already chosen the fonts. Generally, people see serif fonts like times as professional for body text, but really it depends on overall typography. My best advice would be to look up a document that gives the impression you want and see what font they use... – Ville Niemi Feb 5 '15 at 11:58
  • I'm voting to leave this question open - despite being bas but the wrong premise, it got the right answers: not which font to use, but how to approach choosing the right font. – SF. Feb 26 '15 at 7:19
  • Voting to leave open, but editing the title. – dmm Mar 3 '15 at 22:46
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Short answer: If the font is easily readable, then it's fine. I wouldn't obsess over this.

I'm sure psychologists and marketing people and psychics are convinced that choice of font has profound implications on the effect your material has on readers. Personally, I doubt it. Unless the font is unusual enough to stand out, unless readers see the font and immediately say to themselves, "Hey, that looks like blood is dripping from the letters" or "Oh, cute, how each letter looks like a different animal" or whatever, most people just won't notice or care.

You do want your text to be readable. Serif fonts are generally thought to be a little prettier. If the text is small, though, a sans-serif font can be easier to read. Elaborate decorative fonts can be nice for a title, but they get very tedious when used for the main text.

I'd add: Avoid using a large number of different fonts in one document. It can be attractive to have one font for the main text and another font for headings. It can be useful to have one font for the running narrative and a different font for block quotes or examples or some other text that you want to distinguish. But don't go crazy. I've seen people put 15 different fonts in one document for no apparent reason. Rule of thumb: Don't have more than 3 fonts unless there's some truly special case.

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Different fonts have been created for different purposes, and you should select a font depending on that purpose.

Helvetica and Times, for example, are common fonts that have been created to be easily readable in print. Arial and Verdana, on the other hand, were created specifically to be easily readable on a screen. Both Arial and Verdana look ugly in print, while both Helvetica and Times are more difficult to read on screen.

Another difference is wether a font was designed for body text or for headlines. Headline (or display) fonts are often more ornamental and difficult to read than body text.

There are other kind of font (e.g. fonts to imitate hand lettering in comic books, or OCR fonts meant to be read by machines) and you must first identify your usage, before you start looking for a fitting font.

Besides the purpose, a font has a character, that is, it looks playful, light, earnest, etc., so different fonts with the same purpose – e.g. different fonts to print body text – will fit a different kind of text. Usually academic journals prefer a more sober looking font, while novels sometimes use a font with more character that will support the story.

All (professionally made) fonts can be used in professional publications. Which font is the appropriate one for your publication is a question that typographers, typesetters, book and web designers have been trained to answer.

As a professional writer, the most professional descision would be to let a professional book or web designer pick the font that best represents your writing to the intended audience in the chosen medium.

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