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How to Choose Fonts For Headlines


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How to Choose Fonts For Headlines

Headlines and other short phrases or blocks of text are often set in display type sizes of 18 points and larger. While readability is still important, there is more leeway for using fun or decorative typefaces.


Here's How:

1.      Choose a font that is appropriate to the tone and purpose of your publication. Does the font say 'fun' or 'serious' to you?

2.      Choose a font that contrasts well with the body copy. For example, serif body copy and sans serif headlines provide good contrast.

3.      If using the same font for body copy and headlines, create contrast by setting headlines bolder and much larger than body text.

4.      For extremely decorative or elaborate fonts use larger display sizes of 32 points or more.

5.      Use extremely decorative or elaborate fonts in moderation and for shorter headlines.

6.      When setting headlines in all caps, use sans serif fonts. Serif, scripts, and elaborate decorative fonts are much harder to read set in all caps.

7.      Kern your headlines. Adjust the spacing of type set at display sizes to eliminate distracting gaps between certain pairs of letters.



1.      If you don't want to spend time kerning your headlines, try a font that has better letter spacing and doesn't need kerning. It varies from typeface to typeface.

2.      Be consistent in your use of headline fonts throughout a publication.


How to Use Script Typefaces Effectively

Typefaces that mimic cursive handwriting or fonts made from actual handwriting samples can convey a quiet elegance, personalize a form letter, or exude cheerfulness, playfulness, or a casual mood.

Here's How:

1.      Choose a script typeface that is in keeping with the overall tone of your document -- whether formal, informal, or elegant, or casual.

2.      Don't use script faces in ALL CAPS. They are much harder to read.

3.      Avoid mixing two or more script faces in a single document. They usually clash.

4.      Allow extra character or line spacing for script faces with exagerated features or extra curves, swashes, and curls.

5.      Avoid long lines and complete paragraphs of only script type. It is usually too difficult to read.



1. Match the tone of your script typeface with the tone of the graphics used in your publication -- casual with casual, etc.


How to Choose a Font For Body Text

The bulk of what we read is body copy. It's the novels, magazine articles, newspaper stories, contracts, and Web pages we read day after day. Body type or a body face is the typeface used for body copy.


Here's How:

1.      Choose a typeface that is readable at body copy sizes of 14 points or less.

2.      In the US at least, serif faces are the norm for most books and newspapers making them familiar and comfortable.

3.      Choose a body face that blends in and doesn't distract the reader with oddly shaped letters, or extremes in x-height, descenders, or ascenders.

4.      In general (with many exceptions) consider serif faces for a subdued, formal, or serious look.

5.      In general (with exceptions) consider sans serif faces for a crisper, bolder, or more informal tone.

6.      Avoid monospaced typefaces for body copy. They draw too much attention to the individual letters distracting the reader from the message.

7.      Avoid script or handwriting typefaces for body copy. Some exceptions: cards and invitations where the text is set in short lines with extra line spacing.

8.      Save your fancy or unusual typefaces for use in headlines, logos, and graphics.



1.      Don't rely solely on an on-screen display or a small sample. Print out the fonts you're considering at body copy size in paragraphs of varying size.

2.      Fonts suitable for print do not always translate well to the screen for Web use.


How to Match Type Size to Readership

The appropriate type size depends on many factors but there are some general guidelines to follow to insure readability for the main audience of your publication.


Here's How:

1.      In general, the older your target audience, the larger the type size should be for comfortable reading.

2.      For a predominantly older readership of 65 and over or for audiences with known visual handicaps, set body text in sizes from 14 to 18 points.

3.      Use 11 to 12 point type for readers in the 40-65 age range.

4.      For most general audiences, body copy set at 10 or 11 points is good.

5.      For beginning readers of any age, a larger type size around 14 points is good.

6.      Keep headlines between 14 and 30 points in most cases, keeping in mind that the closer in size to the body text, the harder it is to distinguish headlines from other text.



1.      Some software allows you to use incremental point sizes such as 11.5. If 10 point type seems too small and 11 point is too large, try a point size in between.

2.      Some fonts at 11 points appear visually larger than other fonts at the same size. While 11 point type is generally a good text size, it may be too small or too large for your selected font. Experiment with other sizes.

3.      Know your audience. Some groups might resent the automatic assumption that they can't see well enough to read "normal" size body text.


How to Choose an Ideal Line Length For Text

Lines of type that are too long or too short slow down reading and comprehension. Type size, margins, gutters, and number of columns help determine line length in your publication. Increase readability by following a few guidelines.

Here's How:

1.      Apply the alphabet-and-a-half rule to your text. This would place ideal line length at 39 characters regardless of type size.

2.      Measure the line length in inches or picas for your chosen body copy font using the alphabet-and-a-half rule.

3.      Apply the points-times-two rule to your text. Take the type size and multiply it by two. The result is your ideal line length in picas. That is, 12 point type would have an ideal line length of 12x2 or 24 picas (approx. 4 inches).

4.      Compare the line lengths for your chosen body copy font using each rule. Use a column width in your publication that falls within the range established by each rule.



1.      Longer or shorter line lengths may be justified in some designs; however, using these formulas will give you an idea of what line length range is most reader-friendly for your chosen font.