Selecting a Font for Writing and Reading

Depending on how bad is my eyesight at any given moment and/or what mood I’m in, I like to change the font I’m using for reading, as for writing—and I’ll often use different fonts for note taking and for the more creative part of the job.

For creative writing, I use either a serif (most often some variant of Palatino or Garamond, or even Cambria), or a sans-serif one (Calibri, Arial).

The same sample text, in French, using Cambria, garamond, and Palatynio Linotype fonts

Three same-sized (14) serif fonts with the same line spacing (single) and line width, on a 24” 1920×1200 screen.

The same sample text, in French, using Arial and Calibri fonts.

Two sans-serif fonts, using the same settings as above.

For research and for note taking, I use a monospaced font (Courier Prime, Consolas, or even the traditional Courier New). Why? Because each character has exactly the same width—unlike other fonts—its increased readability makes it easier to read my notes quickly. Also, because it makes my notes look, well, you know, different. 

Monospaced fonts are typically the kind of fonts used in a Terminal or a command prompt, or in a text editor, but not in a word processor, though nothing prevents you from using them in Word, Pages, LibreOffice, or even in apps like Ulysses, or Scrivener.

There are many available, some fancier than others. Here are a few. Here again, using the same settings as before. In real life, depending on the chosen font and the size of the screen, I would change the font size, line width and paragraph spacing.

The same sample text, in French, using Courier New, Consolas, Courier Prime Sans and 1942 Report fonts

The last one, 1942 report, belongs to the ‘fancy’ department in that it tries to mimic the look and feel an old typewriter, flaws included! It’s funny and can be useful in graphic design (for a book cover or whatever), but not really for actual writing.

Courier Prime Sans is one of my favorited and it’s free (Open Font License).

Another option worth mentioning is Open Dyslexic. Designed for dyslexic users, it’s available as a monospaced font and it, too, is free. Too bad it isn’t pre-installed on every computer.

The same sample text, in French, using OpenDyslexic and OpenDyslexic Mono fonts.

Managing fonts under Windows

Double-click on a (or multiple) TTF or OTF font file to install if for the actual user. Right-click and select Install for all users, to make it available to all users on the computer.

To manage your fonts, in Windows Search type “Font settings”, or go to Settings->Personnalization->Fonts. There you’ll be able to see installed fonts and uninstall them, add new fonts by drag’n drop, or get new fonts through the Store.

Windows font settings. Decorative.

If you want to customize font smoothing, click the Adjust ClearType Text in the Related Settings. I haven’t used it for years, Microsoft doing a great job by default, imo.

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