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So Many Fonts . . . Which Is the Right One?

Unless you are coding your own web pages, most social media applications will give you little control of typefaces. The what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WSIWYG) editor that you use to create content may allow you to add bold or italics. Sometimes you can change the font size. Rarely will you be able to specify the font.

However, if you are coding your own web pages and have the option of choosing different fonts, start by first considering your rhetorical situation: Who is the audience? What is your purpose for designing? What is the context? Do you want to be humorous? Serious? Are you announcing an event? There are a million things to take into consideration, but the most important thing to consider is readability. Don’t use overly-fancy fonts just because they’re cool. At the same time, don’t use plain fonts when you’re trying to generate some excitement or interest. For example, if you have a Halloween theme going, you can find fonts that appear to be dripping with a liquid (like blood—boo!). Half the fun of fonts is searching for new and interesting ones.

If you want to see some of the many commercial fonts available for purchase, go to Linotype’s web site and check out some of their standard fonts. You can also find free fonts on the Internet, but be careful of viruses or other malicious software and downloads! If you want a safe place to download free fonts, go to dafont.com or fontsquirrel.com.

Note that even if you downloaded a font onto your own computer and included that font in your website design, it was not be automatically usable on the computers of others viewing your site. Until recently, anyone looking at your website would have had to pre-install that specific font file on their own computer in order to see your website as you intended.

For example, if you include the Arial font in your website design, everyone who visits your site must already have the Arial font file pre-installed on their computer in order to see the site the way you designed it. And that font must have the exact same name. The good news in this particular example is that almost everyone already has the Arial font file pre-installed on their computer, so they would see your website the same way you saw it when you designed it.

But if you choose a less common font, like Plantagenet Cherokee, many of your users most likely won’t have the Plantagenet Cherokee font file pre-installed on their own computer. When that happens, a user’s computer automatically replaces the “unknown” font (in this case Plantagenet Cherokee), with some other font that is available, most likely Times New Roman; all of this means that, to at least some of your users, your website ends up looking completely different than what you had intended.

Consequently, you usually want to stick with fonts that are commonly available; see Common Fonts to All Versions of Windows & Mac Equivalents for an excellent list.