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The Great Font Debate

By Ethan Shea

"Woman Typing"

If you’re a fan of Times New Roman, you may want to sit down.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department officially adopted Calibri as its font of choice, phasing out Times New Roman, which has been used since 2004. Previously, the State Department used Courier New.

The decision was made in the name of accessibility. Although both Calibri and Times New Roman are classified as accessible fonts for both writers and readers, there is a critical difference between the two. Calibri is sans serif and Times New Roman is serif. Serifs are little wings or projections adorning letters in fonts like Times New Roman, and sans serif fonts simply do not have these additions.

"'Why Fonts Matter'"

“Why Fonts Matter” Cover

It is also important to note that Calibri, for example, is technically not a font until it includes other factors like size or italics. On its own, Calibri and Times New Roman are really just typefaces.

The State Department makes these sorts of decisions as research on accessibility evolves, and their hope is that other prominent font-users will follow. Who knows which organization will adopt Calibri in the near future?

Although it is certainly best practice to use the font that is most accessible, I have to say, I would be sad to see Times New Roman go. There is just something about the embellishments of serif fonts that I find aesthetically pleasing. At least they did not choose Comic Sans!

For more information on this national event, check out this New York Times article.

Accessibility is of the utmost importance here at Falvey as well. For example, did you know that Falvey Library’s publication Mosaic is published electronically in an accessible format, designed to be read by screen readers?

Moreover, you can order Why Fonts Matter through interlibrary loan. This book delves into the science behind how fonts influence readers.

How do you feel about this change of font? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a second-year graduate student in the English Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



Last Modified: January 31, 2023

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