4 ways to make your e-zine type letter-perfect
I received an email a few weeks ago from advertising specialist Darren Wiedman, who subscribes to my e-zine.
“I have to reach for my reading glasses every time I open your emails,” he said, in the most generous and gracious exchange possible. “But they are usually worth the extra effort.”
Thank you, Darren. I’m sorry. We’re going to do better.
Darren, whose job includes building HTML emails, suggested that we consider 14 point as a minimum for email text. He sent links to a post by Litmus and other email clients that agreed.
That got us wondering: What are the best font styles and text sizes for easy-to-read emails?
Whether you’re writing email newsletters, email marketing campaigns or business emails, here are some tips for choosing the best font for your email:
1. What’s the best font size for email?
We’ve known for years that type size matters:
- Print copy is most effective at 10 to 12 points, wrote Colin Wheildon in his landmark 1995 book, Type & Layout. Wheildon drew fans like David Ogilvy and Milton Glaser for his proven-in-the-lab best practices.
- Online, participants read 12-point type faster than 10-point type, according to a 2002 study of three professors at Wichita State University’s Software Usability Research Lab.
- Participants also read 12-point type fastest in a 2006 study by the Buskerud University College Optometry and Visual Sciences department in Norway. When researchers reduced that type to 8 points, readers saw a 10% drag in reading time.
The big change since those studies? Mobile reading. More than half of your audience members now open your emails on their smartphones, not their laptops.
So what’s the best font size for mobile email? The experts at Mailchimp recommend:
- Header: 22 to 28 pixels
- Body text: 16 pixels for longer emails to 22 pixels for shorter ones. Apple recommends 17 to 22; Google, 18-22.
- Line height: 1.4 to 1.5 pixels. This saves your message from looking as if the letters are too close from one line to the next.
- Calls to action, buttons, other touch targets: 46 pixels square. Apple recommends 44 pixels square; Google, 48.
Bottom line: Choose a font size that’s big enough so readers don’t have to squint or zoom, small enough so it doesn’t waste precious screen space.
2. What’s the best font for email?
Which typeface works best online?
- Readers were more likely to agree with messages set in Baskerville, according to a 2012 study by Errol Morris. (Least persuasive: Comic Sans, followed by Helvetica.)
- Online, people read messages set in Times New Roman and Arial fastest, according to a 2002 study by three professors at Wichita State University’s Software Usability Research Lab.
- Arial and Courier were the most legible; Comic Sans the least, according to the Wichita State study.
3. Is serif or sans serif the best font for email?
What’s the difference between serif and sans serif fonts?
- In print, serif text type is easier to read. That’s because the serifs help define the letters, which speeds reading.
- Online, sans serif text type is easier to read. That’s because the serifs pixelate, fuzzing up the letters a bit.
Bottom line: Choose a sans serif font for email body copy, a serif font for headlines and other display copy.
4. More tips for email fonts
Also, you’ll want to:
- Avoid italics. They don’t pixelate properly, making them hard to read online.
- Don’t underline text. Visitors will mistake it for a link.
- Choose black type. That light gray default font your email template came with? Costing you readers.
- Use blue for links, purple for clicked links. Web visitors have learned these conventions on other sites; don’t make them learn new rules for yours.
- Use web-safe fonts, including any custom fonts.
Just my type.
Thank you, Darren, for starting this discussion.
Do you still need your glasses?
Source: Neil Patel, “How Typography Affects Conversions,” NeilPatel, 2019
Steffen Fjaervik, “Small Fonts Spell Trouble Online,” PoynterOnline, Oct. 23, 2006
Michael Bernard, Bonnie Lida, Shannon Riley, Telia Hackler and Karen Janzen, “A Comparison of Popular Online Fonts: Which Size and Type is Best?” Usability News, April 1, 2002
Colin Wheildon, Type & Layout: How typography and design can get your message across — or get in the way, Strathmore Press (Berkeley, Calif.), 1995