Quick Reference

Guidelines for Font Usage

Presentation is crucial to all forms of communication -- most of all when dealing with written communication. Unlike information conveyed personally, a written message is static. It must speak for itself. To achieve truly effective communication, one must pay equal attention to content and presentation. In written communication, the fundamental presentation element is the font.

When utilized well, a font can accomplish four things: 1) focus attention, 2) enhance readability, 3) establish a tone, and 4) project an image. Your font is the first line of defense against reader apathy -- and your first chance to capture an audience and create a positive, lasting impression. To be effective, fonts should be chosen carefully and strategically. The following is a brief digest of useful font guidelines.

1. Watch Your Case

The body of most documents should use upper and lowercase text. Avoid using all upper or lowercase text anywhere in your document, as both can be difficult to read. As for headings and titles, use uppercase lettering whenever prescribed or appropriate.

2. Size Does Matter

Generally accepted writing guidelines for typical documents prescribe the use of 10-12 point font for the body, 14-48 point font for primary headings and one-half of the primary heading point size for secondary headings.

3. Keep It Simple

Simplicity is a virtue in writing. Keep this in mind when choosing a font or font mix. Remember, your font is supposed to enhance your message, not upstage it. Unless it is truly warranted, tend toward simple, inconspicuous fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. Also, these fonts, among others, are TrueType -- this means that what you see on the screen is exactly what you will see on the page.

4. Be Consistent

Don't overdo it by using three or four different styles in the same document. As a rule, never use more than two fonts in the same piece. Like the saying goes, two's company, three's a crowd. So once you choose your fonts, be committed and use them throughout.

5. Mix It Up

Though you should use no more than two fonts in a single document, variety is sometimes needed to break the monotony. A good way to add variety is through the use of italicized, bold or underlined text. These tools, when properly used, can signify importance, emphasis or even inflection. Just remember to use them sparingly.

6. Match Your Medium

The goal of every project is different, as is the intended audience. Accordingly, there isn't one best font or style. The characteristics of your project should determine which font is right. When it comes to style, the above should be treated as guidelines, not gospel. If you need uppercase text, use it. If you need as additional font for a breakout section, add it. Ultimately, the most important thing is that your presentation matches your medium.

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