Serif and sans-serif fonts
This article distinguishes between serif and sans-serif fonts and discusses when each is appropriate.
Consider the following characters. The first is set in Georgia, a lovely serif font. The second is set in Verdana, an easy- to-read sans-serif font.
Notice the small decorative flourishes at the ends of the strokes in the left character. These are called serif. The right character does not have these strokes and is said to be in a sans-serif font. ( Sans is the French word for without.)
Times New Roman is a commonly used serif font. Arial is a commonly used sans-serif font.
Use serif for printed workSerif fonts are usually easier to read than sans-serif fonts.
This is because the serif make the individual letters more distinctive and easier for our brains to recognise quickly. Without the serif, the brain has to spend longer identifying the letter because the shape is less distinctive.
The commonly used convention for printed work is to use a serif font for the body of the work. A sans-serif font is often used for headings and captions.
Use sans serif for online workAn important exception must be made for the web. Printed works generally have a resolution of at least 1,000 dots per inch; whereas, computer monitors are less than 100 dots per inch. This lesser resolution can make very small serif characters harder to read than the equivalent sans-serif characters because of their more complex shapes.
It follows that small on-screen text is better in a sans-serif font like Verdana or Arial.