While the days of illegibly handwritten business correspondence may be mostly in the past — save a nice thank you note here and there — we still have to decide which font is the most readable for all things typed, such as email. Inc. magazine, in fact, reports that we send upward of 269 billion emails every day, and according to DMR, the average office worker received 121 emails per day as of 2015.
With masses of information zooming through cyberspace and being checked on smart phone screens more than ever — a 2017 study by Return Path found that 55 percent of emails were opened on a mobile device, up 29 percent from 2012 — providing clear text is key to getting your message across. And the right font goes a long way toward achieving that goal.
When choosing a font for business email communication, two important terms to consider are serif and sans-serif because this determines whether the font has little tails at the edges — serif — or not. Sans-serif literally means "without serif," or no tails. Graphics and typography experts agree that within the digital realm sans-serif fonts are easier to read. A study by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, aka Doctor Ebiz, showed this to be true and that most viewers were comfortable with a 12-pt. font or even a 10-pt. font, but not smaller sizes.
There are plenty of sans-serif fonts to choose from, and each name is more enticing than the next — Aller, Avant Garde, Futura, Univers and so many more. But because the goal is clarity, it's best to opt for a font that most computers already include, otherwise you run the risk of having your chosen font converted to whatever system font the recipient has set in their email client.
"For example, Gmail does not support web fonts," says C. Michael Frey, a Los Angeles-based graphic designer. "Considering it's the second most commonly used email client, this is a very important consideration."
Frey recommends using Arial or Helvetica.
"These are both system fonts that are available on every computer and are easy to read," he says. "While there are other fonts available like Courier or the dreaded Comic Sans, it's best to avoid these if you want your recipient to take you seriously. Just like with branding, the wrong font choice can give people a very specific idea about who you are."
You might love the curves of Garamond or the tradition of Bookman Old Style, but you'll have to save those for printed materials. When it comes to email communication, sans-serif rules the day, around 121 times every day.