Freaking out about fonts

Examining the real meaning behind font choice in essays, letters, and obituaries.


Dear Mav Advice,

What kind of font should I use to write my essay? Times New Roman is super professional, but is it wrong that I want to experiment with Roboto and Helvetica Bold?


Honestly, this is kind of a niche question. But instead of saying “anything but Comic Sans”,  I’ll delve a little deeper, just because this is genuinely not the kind of question I expected to have to answer.

Typical essay, letter, or email etiquette that I tend to follow is to view the document like some snooty businessman. If John R. Clownshoes, a highly educated and wealthy investment banker from Brooklyn (the ungentrified part) could accept or draft an email in the same format and not care much? You’re pretty much solid.

The point of font, in my opinion, is to convey a thematic message. If you write in Times New Roman or Garamond or the like, it’s a serious essay. You’re trying to get to a point or prove one in time.

You really just have to see exactly what is appropriate for the situation you’re writing for. If you’re composing a speech on paper that no one else is going to see, choose something easy on the eyes that’s relatively effortless to read. Making a website? Use something impactful and memorable. The hundreds of available fonts between Google and Microsoft Word give you nearly endless possibilities.

If you publish in Courier or Comic Sans you’re either writing a ransom letter or advertising your lemonade stand that’s based out of a little red wagon. Drafting in Comic Sans, however, has actually proven to allow people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia maintain focus on the words they type.

The Internet and its optimization have given us access to countless methods of expressing thoughts and opinions without even having to type real letters (i.e. emojis), but it’s even changed the way we actually view letters themselves.

When it really comes down to it, choosing a font for some professional activity or the like is down to personal preference. Choose a respectable font appropriate to your situation. And always remember, no situation ever calls for Comic Sans.