Fonts - How to Use Them and Why You Should Care

Communication, occurs on two levels: verbal and non-verbal. To achieve maximum impact, it is essential that this dual communication consistently corresponds. Type can be persuasive, inspirational and is more than just words. In writing, presentation matters, size matters, spacing matters, color matters as does the content matter.

Type must speak for itself. Expert communicators know that superb content is not enough. They know that to achieve truly effective communication one must pay equal attention to how the content is presented. Contrarily, untrained communicators don’t realize that style can, and often does, override substance.

The font is the style of your typeface. When utilized well, a font or font mix accomplishes four things:

  • focuses attention,

  • enhances readability,

  • sets a tone, and

  • projects an image. Font is your first line of defense against reader apathy—and your first chance to really capture an audience, create a positive and lasting impression, and encourage continued interest. Remember, though, while font can (and should) be used for good, it can also be used for bad…impressions that is. Every day, writers discover that font choice is an excellent opportunity to make a mockery of their work. This in mind, effective font should be chosen both carefully and strategically.

Below is a list of useful font guidelines.

  1. Watch Your Case
    As per tradition, for typical documents you should use upper and lower case text for the body of your work. Avoid using all upper or lower case text anywhere in your document, as both can be difficult to read. As for headings and titles, use upper case lettering whenever necessary.

  2. Size Does Matter
    Writing guidelines for typical documents prescribe the use of 10-11 point font for the body, 14-48 point font for primary headings, and one-half of the primary heading point size for secondary headings. Size of type will vary due to the project size, ie: posters larger type sizes and business cards will be smaller in size.

  3. Keep It Somple and Be Consistent
    There are many typefaces available, but the rule is to use one or two families (Helvetica, Times, Garamond, Futura, etc.). Helvetica is a family - within this family you can use italics, bold, condensed, etc. Unless it is truly warranted, tend toward simple, inconspicuous fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. TrueType—this means that what you see on the screen is exactly what you will see on the page.

  4. Use Variety When Needed
    Although, in general, font use should be consistent throughout a project, variety is sometimes needed to break the monotony. One good way to infuse diversity into a document is via the use of italicized, bold, or underlined text. These highlighting tools, as well as many others, are properly used to signal importance, emphasis, even inflection (see paragraph one). But remember, use them sparingly or don’t use them at all. One exception to the rule, is when you have a lot of information and need a way of breaking the information up.