Is it time to leave serifs behind?

Have we advanced enough as a society that we can use sans serif fonts exclusively? Or does the Roman Empire still cast a shadow after all these centuries? When I look at the pros and cons, I can’t think of a reason why we should still be using serif fonts.


Few people actually write that way.

There will be fewer pixels using up foreground color.

Rome will finally be defeated.

Our font folder will have room for more fonts.


Can’t really think of any.

It’s for the children.

They’ve been unnecessary for five hundred years, yet we’ve kept them because people are used to them. Simplification has always been a reason to change, but has never won through, because we are creatures of habit and are more comfortable reading printed material in serif fonts.

Sans serif fonts are more commonly used on computers because screen resolutions are well below what we expect of any half-decent paper printing. Rough calculations, my half-decent monitor is offering about 100 pixels per inch on its highest setting, yet my bottom-shelf laser printer offers 600dpi. Commercial book printing works on many thousands dpi. When screen resolutions replicate that, then serif fonts will look very nice indeed.

An extra observation - although websites mostly use sans serif fonts, PDFs (by definition designed for printing) are mostly created with serifs.

Serif fonts are easier to read.

And prettier.

You’ll have to pry my Palatino Linotype out of my cold dead fingers.

I or l
I or l

it’s enough to make one Ill

Most comprehension studies of the serif v san-serif issue support StarvingButStrong’s contention that serif is easier to read. Of course, most of those studies are based on printed text on paper. As GorillaMan indicates, most screen resolutions give serif fonts less of a comprehension advantage, or even a disadvantage. They are not, however, “unnecessary”. Most professional technical writers I know, for instance, prefer serif fonts for body text and san-serif fonts for titles. This distinction becomes one of the comprehension tools that you use when reading the manual (or whatever).

Sans serif fonts are generally very much less aesthetically pleasing than serif fonts, which trumps all the other reasons.

I can’t believe myself, but reading that OP got me just about as worked up and upset as I’ve ever been on this message board.

Serif for print.
Sans for screen.

Could someone explain just what the heck is a serif is? I’m assuming it’s not a literary version of Omar Sharif.

asterion: Read this.

It’s the caps and the feet on your letters

By default, SDMB uses a san serif font, so you can see in letters like the lower case L that the letters are straight without embellishments.

Compare the letters above to this text, which should be appearing in the serif font Times New Roman. Note the stroke at the top and bottom of the lowercase L.

Serifs are the small lines at the ends of stokes in letters. Times for instances is a typeface with serifs.

Director Stanley Kubrick thought a lot about such things.

I tend to favor the shaded sans-serif (Oracle, for instance), which gives the crispness of a sans serif font with the depth of a serif.

But Palatino Linotype is pretty nice. And Deepdene.



Serif fonts are also essential for monospace text, which has plenty of uses (easy columnar formatting, for instance). Of course, monospace can also be considered less visually appealing in circumstances that don’t call for it.

There’s room for both, and will be for the forseeable future.

Palatino: Pretty! When I was a young proofreader working late at night I would secretly switch the font on the newspaper’s poetry column from Times to Palatino because it looked better. There! I’ve said it! God, I feel so much better to have that out in the open after 22 years!

Serifs are necessary for monospace? I don’t think so.

The only reason I can think of to KEEP serif fonts is that they are easier to read. Infinitely easier to read when you’re reading a lot of text, as in a book, for instance. Studies prove it (no cite…sorry).

AII l can say is, if someone caIIs me Ino again, l’II snap.