Serif and sans serif fonts are equally legible and interchangeably using these typefaces for reading charts is unlikely to affect reading performance, according to a study published in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics.
Researchers enrolled 36 participants (26 women, mean age, 27.5±5.74 years) and analyzed their reading performance using 2 different typefaces. Participants read 3 paragraphs that were equal in the number of words, syllables, and characters which included 1 paragraph written in sans serif font (Helvetica Neue T1 55 Roman) in a paperback form, 1 paragraph written in serif font (Times New Roman PS Roman) in a paperback form, and 1 paragraph written in serif font in newspaper form. All paragraphs were printed at equal size, with equal spacing between the lines. Researchers compared reading time, reading speed, and the number of reading errors made. Reading duration was measured with a stopwatch.
The report revealed no significant difference in reading time (P =.50) or reading speed (P =.56) between the 2 fonts for the paperback layout. Correlation was high between the 2 fonts for both reading time and speed (r=0.93).
The mean number of reading errors was the same (0.31±0.58 errors/text) for both fonts. However, there was a significant difference in reading time and speed between the paperback and the newspaper layout. Participants read the 2 typefaces significantly faster in paperback layout than in the newspaper layout.
“The use of Helvetica versus Times New Roman does not affect the legibility of text paragraphs, as measured by reading speed or the number of reading errors,” according to the researchers. “When they are equal in terms of layout, x-height and line widths, both typefaces are likely to represent inter-changeable standard typefaces that can be used as norms.”
Study limitations include a small sample size and the exclusion of individuals who did not speak German.
Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or clinical research organizations. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.
Daxer B, Radner W, Radner M, Benesch T, Ettl A. Towards a standardisation of reading charts: font effects on reading performance-Times New Roman with serifs versus the sans serif font Helvetica. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. Published online August 16, 2022. doi:10.1111/opo.13039