Font: Styles & Types

Instructor: Mary Firestone
Learn about fonts and a bit of the history about them. Find out the importance of using the right font style, and where you can download font styles to your computer. Read the lesson, then take a quiz to test your knowledge.


If you spend time on the Internet, watch commercials on television or read print ads, you've seen how the size and style of letters can have an impact. This is the basic work of fonts, which are typefaces, or letters created in a particular style. They have names like 'Times Roman,' 'Courier,' and 'Arial,' among hundreds of others.

Each letter in a particular font style - Times Roman, for example - has been designed to look a certain way. All the letters and numbers of the Times Roman font are recognizable as such. In a way, each font has its own personality, or 'look.'

A Brief History of Fonts

It's hard to imagine now, but all books were once written by scribes who spent days at their desks carefully creating each letter by hand. All this changed when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press c. 1450. The term 'font' originates from the word 'foundry,' which is where metal typefaces were created for printing presses. The explosion of publishing after its invention created the need for standardized typefaces, which was established by Francoise Didot in the mid-eighteenth century. Didot invented the system of 'points' which identifies font sizes.

Academic Writing

Fonts make a difference in the overall tone of your writing, so the one you choose for your document is important. If you're writing a college essay or research paper, most documentation styles, such as APA (American Psychological Association) and MLA (Modern Language Association), have guidelines about what font style to use. APA requires a 12 point font and recommends Times Roman. MLA isn't as specific, but requires the font to be readable. In any case, the font shouldn't distract from the essay content.

The 'points' of a font relate to its size. If you use a too-small font, such as a 10 point Arial, you'll force your readers to struggle and possibly not finish reading your work. It's also important to use the same font style and size throughout a document, even when you choose to bold or italicize the text. On the job, avoid using fonts that are too large or too small or fancy fonts that distract or even distort your message by appearing funny when you intend to be serious.

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