Typography can affect everything from the mood of a text to how convincing its arguments are. When self-publishing a thesis or working paper, or even in preparing a piece for review it’s good to follow these rules to make your texts as readible and visually pleasing as possible.
- Use a serif typeface (font) for the main text and a sans serif typeface for headings, tables and figures. Serif fonts are easier to read because the little feet guide the eye from one word to the next. Sans serif fonts are easier for reading short pieces of text.
- Use no more than two typefaces in a single document. Being consistent with typefaces makes a document feel polished and pulled together. And make sure the two fonts match.
- Use different weights and italics for emphasis but never underline. All typefaces today come with at least “Regular” or “Roman” and “Bold”. And a lot of modern typefaces have many different weights–Helvetica Neue automatically comes loaded with weights from ultra-light to bold to heavy. Using a good type with many available weights gives you more flexibility in emphasis. But never, never, never underline text; it’s a nasty hold-over from typewriters.
- Be conservative. A good font is like a good sofa: you don’t notice it but it’s comfortable. Good standby serif typefaces are: Garamond, Computer Modern (in LaTeX), Sabon, Bodoni, Caslon and Baskerville. Good conservative sans serif choices are Helvetica, Helvetica Neue, Myriad Pro and Gill Sans.
- Adjust your margins so you have 50-60 characters per line. This is the optimal line number of characters for readability. Much longer and the reader gets tired from long lines. Much shorter disrupts the flow.