Why choosing fonts matters, especially for professional documents
Today’s lesson is brought to us by the #FontGate scandal
Jul 13, 2017
A corruption investigation in Pakistan just took a sharp turn upon the discovery that a key document in the investigation of the Prime Minister’s daughter, Mariam Nawaz Sharif, might have been forged. Nawaz Sharif was linked as a beneficial owner of one of the companies listed in the 2016 Panama Papers leaks. In response, she produced a disclosure saying she was only a trustee, not a beneficial owner. However, the font used in the document—Microsoft’s default font, Calibri—didn’t exist at the time the document was allegedly typed.
Netizens have taken to social media to react:
— Evan Price (@_evanp) July 12, 2017
— Meg Quintero (@meg_quintero) July 13, 2017
Many also criticized the font choice, not for the dating of its release, but because of its look, as Calibri doesn’t make for a professional-looking letter, especially from someone of high status like the daughter of the Prime Minister.
This whole scandal just goes to show how much trouble you could get into if you don’t use the proper fonts for professional communication.
Choosing the right font and size for letters and other forms of communication is important because it not only sets the tone and lends credibility to your correspondence (will you read a report typed in Comic Sans?), it also helps with readability.
Here are a few things to consider before you start typing out those documents.
Serif for print, sans serif for e-mails
Serif fonts are ones that have small embellishments, which usually appear as small lines at the ends of letter corners. Some classic examples of serif fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond. (The font used on our website is also a serif font.) These kinds of fonts are preferred for business letters, resumes, books, and other professional communication because it’s more distinguishable (and appealing) when printed.
Sans serif, as implied by the word “sans”, are fonts that have no embellishments, and instead feature straight lines and smooth curves. Samples of this font style are Arial, Helvetica, and yes, Calibri. These fonts are more commonly used for digital communication, such as e-mails and websites (notice how Facebook and Twitter use sans serif fonts). This is because these fonts are simpler and easier to read on screen.
As a rule of thumb, avoid script, cursive, or decorative fonts. They might work for wedding invitations, but not for a business proposal.
Once you’ve chosen an appropriate font, it’s important to also choose the right font size. Especially for serif fonts, anything smaller than 10 will be difficult to read—and that’s definitely something you want to avoid, especially if your letter contains important information or an inquiry you want answered. The default size on most word processors is 12—this allows for easy readability both digitally and on print.
You also don’t want to choose too big a font, unless you’re making a slide presentation. In this case, sizes around 36 should be a good estimate. (Because you’re not supposed to put your entire speech in your slides.)
Spacing also aids readability
The spaces between letters, words, and even between lines are important in ensuring that your letter is readable. If the spaces are too tight, there will be a tendency for letters to stick together (especially in print), making the entire word indistinguishable.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.
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