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"Font" used to refer to a complete set of characters of one typeface (set of characters that share a common design structure) in a specific size and style. So for a typesetter from 40 years ago, a typeface would be Times New Roman, a font family within it would be Times New Roman demi-bold, and a font within that would be 12-point Times New Roman demi-bold. Since the advent of digital media, the two terms are considered synonymous.

In order to correct visually uneven spacing between two particular characters in a font, there is a process called kerning. It adds or subtracts space between characters.

It can be confused with letter-spacing or tracking, which refers to the amount of space between letters in a piece of text. Tight spacing usually benefits large types, but it has a subjective feeling ("fast talking like in advertising") whereas wider spacing increases legibility of small fonts, and creates an association of a more “objective voice”. In excess, the text can look affected.

Serif: Serifs are embellishments details added at the extremes of the strokes of some letters.

Sans Serif: While serif fonts are more usual in print, sans serifs are widely used online. There is no agreement in which of the two has better readability (facility to read text) and legibility (to recognize characters).

  • Helvetica. Designed to be the 'perfect' typeface; meaning it could be used on almost any design or purpose. By the end of the 20th century, it and its clones has been overused by amateurs and professionals alike.
    • Helvetica is the font used for most things on TV Tropes (when stuff isn't set to the individual browser default). The monospaced font we have is Courier.
    • Arial. Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
      • Here is a page about some of the differences between Arial and Helvetica. This is a 20-question quiz for telling apart the two fonts, using well-known logos designed in Helvetica and converted to Arial.
    • Univers. The Rival: Both were created the same year (1957) and are extremely legible. Univers has wider letter-spacing.
  • Futura. Geometric type (therefore a very modern look) used extensively as a general purpose font.
    • Its Bauhaus style is good for a movie set in The Fifties and you want to show signage at a research laboratory or tables in a science textbook (even though it is considered more a font from The Thirties, where it may also be found, but more in the context of something high end, like a fine arts publication).
  • Frutiger. Quite popular, it has a clean modern look.
  • Century Gothic. Geometric counterpart to ITC Avant Garde. For headlines and short texts.
  • Gotham. Commissioned by GQ magazine to be geometrical and look "masculine, new, and fresh".
  • Verdana. Sans serif counterpart to Georgia. Both were created by Microsoft.
    • Replacement Scrappy: Some felt that Ikea lost part of his identity when Verdana, in 2009, replaced Futura as the default font for their catalogs.
  • Franklin Gothic. Makes sense for headlines and minor design elements.
  • Lithos gives a primitive-ethnic feel. Good if you have a movie set in The Nineties and want to show a restaurant menu.
  • Calibri. In 2010 became the default typeface in, among others, Microsoft Office, substituting Times New Roman and Arial.
  • Roboto. The "Android font" as of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Released for desktop systems by Google in 2012.
  • Segoe. As "Segoe UI", the Microsoft user interface font for Windows Vista and 7, along with Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. A slightly-different version of Segoe is the font for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Script: Meant to imitate handwriting or calligraphy.

  • Comic Sans MS. An informal script font for funny stuff. Almost never used appropriately.
  • Monotype Corsiva. To add a casual feeling to invitations, personal cards and short sponsored texts.
  • Kuenstler Script and Snell Roundhand. Highly formal, based on elaborated calligraphy from the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Kaufmann, Mistral, Dom Casual (which has a freehand effect similar to Comic Sans) and Brush Script. Casual script typefaces (they emulate informal handwriting). Very popular in advertising and entertaining magazines.
    • Dom Casual peaked in popularity in the mid-'50s to early '70s, when it was (over)used much as Comic Sans is now. Today it's most often used when a "retro" look is desired.

Monospaced: Each character occupies the same amount of horizontal space.

  • Courier New. Looks like typewriting. Great for plain text e-mails, screenplays and code.
  • OCR-A. Bar code or credit card font. Was created in 1968 to be easily recognized by computers. It has a retro-futuristic look, so it's also used in advertising and display graphics.
    • OCR-B: Also for optical character recognition, but has a less technical appearance.
  • Lucida Console is the typeface used in the blue screen of death in Windows XP and Windows CE, as well as the default font for Notepad. It's also the only font that can replace the default one in the Command Prompt. In other platforms there is Lucida Typewriter.


  • Impact. Considered amateurish, is good for making lists or standing text out. White-with-black-border Impact is used in an awful lot of image memes.
  • French Clarendon[2]. Apart from Clarendon, this variation was used in the wanted posters to highlight a word or phrase.
  • Anonymous TrueType and Anonymous Pro. Initially designed for Macs, these got exported to other operating systems. Popular with coders and some developers, they have a very clean look. Often overlooked because of compatibility issues.


Examples of Fonts include:



  • Thursday Next: In the Bookworld, different fonts are regarded as different languages.


Web Original

  • College Humor has created two shorts based on fonts, Font Conference and Font Fight. Different fonts are personified by different actors, assuming personas suggested by the font names. Thus Comic Sans is a superhero, Wing Dings is a mental patient able to speak only using the names of symbols ("diamonds candle candle flag!"), Futura is a time traveler from the future, Century Gothic is a goth, etc.

Real Life

  • If you're using Firefox, a handy add-on to tell what fonts are used on a Web page is fontinfo; highlight and right-click on text to use it.
  • An interesting kerning exercise can be found here.

It also provides examples of:

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