Choosing fonts for a document can be much harder than it seems, which is why you often see the advice to default to Times New Roman and not think about it any more. “Times” is a fine font, but it’s not always appropriate for the character of every document. With just a little bit of knowledge about typography, you can easily choose fonts that match the content of your work.

Below are some important terms in understanding typography:

Stroke variation is the level of difference between the width at various parts of a letter. Fonts with high stroke variation such as [font here] tend to look good at large sizes but are hard to read when small.

Serifs are little projections that protrude from the strokes of certain letters in certain typefaces. Serifs tend to give a more serious feel to text and make it easier to read when printed out. “Sans-serif” fonts lack serifs at the end of their letters. These fonts are more casual and informal.

Weight refers to the overall thickness of a font. Many typefaces come in extra bold or even ultra-bold varieties, and many sans-serif fonts come in thin or light varieties that can lend a lean, contemporary effect to a document. Most fonts that come with a computer are a medium weight, so consider downloading some varieties from a place like Google Fonts.


Additional Resources

Google Fonts – Google’s own collection of fonts and typefaces. The website allows you to test various properties of fonts including “weight”, “thickness” and the like. All of the fonts available are free to download and use in your own writing.

Practical Typography – An entire book of helpful rules and guidelines on good typography. There’s an option to pay for the material, but you can access the text online for free.