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Why You Should Stop Using Times New Roman (Research Explains)

Riccardo Sartori

An interesting, if limited, look “from outside”.


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My take on this is that readers are more used to reading sans serif fonts for text than in the past because of computer screens.

Until hi-res (a.k.a. retina) screens were common, serif faces, with their small details, were more difficult to display reasonably well on 72 or 96 dpi screens, looking more like slab serifs which have never been very popular for text. For this reason, sans serif faces were more often used (especially on the web). As a result, people—especially younger people—became accustomed to reading sans serif text.

In the past, sans serif faces were not used for text in print very much. But I believe it's become more acceptable because of the influence of on-screen use of sans to the extent that some people (I would guess younger people especially) now find sans serif faces easier to read in general.

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I winced at Helvetica "New way" and gave up entirely after "suh-REEF". If you can't be bothered to do even the most basic research on font terminology then I fail to understand why I should take seriously anything you have to say about fonts.

Also, the main reason Times New Roman is so widely used is that it was the default font in Microsoft Word for years. That's it. Readability-schmeadability.

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As Mark suggests, familiarity and expectation are aspects of readability; if you are noticing the typeface, this is taking away from attention to content. If a university prof is used to reading essays (for example) in 12/24 Times New Roman, they will likely form a slightly different initial impression of the content if the typeface is much different that what they are used to. Even if you move towards something more like the printed material that such content would be seen in (say 11/20 Janson), you might gain some benefit if the essay is good, but lose if the paper is not so good, as the reader's expectations may be set higher. To avoid interfering with reader's attention to content, a novel's text should look like the reader's expectation of a novel; a fashion magazine's text should look like a fashion magazine. The trouble with the readability research I've seen is that it doesn't account for cultural context and reader experience.

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I recently found that it is more interesting to debate over which Times is best, since it could change the whole perception on that Times. At the text body level, the Times Roman we can find in a Mac is impressively better than Windows' Times New Roman.

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This did not adequately address the difference between legibility (how easy is it to tell one letter from another) and readability (how comfortable is it to ready extended text).  Asking peopleʻs "favorite" or "preferred" font is meaningless except as a popularity contest. 

Publishers use serif fonts for books because their experience over many decades has been that it is more comfortable for people to read for extended periods.  How many of the studies asked people to read an entire book chapter or more?  I generally use Arial because most things I write are relatively brief (such as letters, short reports, etc.), but Iʻll trust the generational experience that Serif is more readable over long documents.

(For anything original that I write and want to share, I use open-source fonts.)  

That Comic Sans Serif is the font that people love to hate, is pompous.  It became popular so there were those who wanted to denigrate it exactly because it was popular.  In fact, that the naysayers have not been able to develop a popular informal font that appealed to large numbers of people emphasizes their lack of creativity as well as their elitism.


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