Using the right font is sometimes a hard a task but always an important one, especially in email marketing. Don’t believe me? Then how seriously will you take me if I write like this?
We’re going to cover some of the basic, fundamental rules of using fonts in email marketing. You’ll get to know the different kinds and learn which ones display best on multiple devices. We’ll cover which ones to use and which ones to avoid as well as the tricks that help your newsletter to be more readable while still looking professional.
Dividing fonts into serif and sans serif
Let’s start with a little theory. Usually, we start by dividing fonts into serif and sans serif. Serif, generally regarded as traditional, is characterised by small lines at the end of a stroke in letters and symbols. They are often used more in printing than on internet pages because they are easier to read on paper.
But the online world is governed by different rules. Sans serif fonts are common on the internet - simple letters without extra lines. Why? Reading text on a screen demands more attention and so the easier things are to read, the better.
“Safe” fonts for email marketing
Pay attention to how different devices display your messages in slightly different ways. Not all of these devices are able to support the font that you used when you designed your newsletter. So what happens to the font you chose? It gets replaced by another that the given device can display. This means that your entire visual concept can be lost if the wrong font is used.
To prevent such a situation, it’s best to use a “safe” font, one that is installed or supported by every device and displayed by every browser in every email service provider.
The most frequently used safe fonts are the most popular, like Ariel, Helvetica, Times New Roman and Georgia. Comic Sans and Courier are also safe but we will return to them later on.
Using a safe font guarantees that your subscribers will see the same text that you designed when you put your newsletter together.
Which fonts to use
Your text content needs to be easy to read. This has to be the primary consideration when choosing a font. Below you will find some examples of fonts that you can use in your designs without having to worry about them being hard to read.
One of the most commonly used fonts. It’s simple and easy to read with a universal appeal, making it a solid choice for email newsletters. Unfortunately, Arial also has a small disadvantage - the space between letters is small, which can mean that the text might be difficult to read on devices with low resolution.
Just like Arial, one of the most popular fonts online. Undoubtedly, the biggest pro for Helvetica is its universality and the fact that it suits various graphical designs. If you want your design to look modern and minimalistic, use Helvetica. But the biggest con against it, like Arial, is the lack of space between letters.
Verdana is regarded as being more readable thanks to the increased space between letters. As a sans serif font, it displays well on computer screens so you can be confident that your original design will be transferred to subscribers.
What about serif fonts?
If you want to add a classic, traditional character reminiscent of printed pages, use a serif font.
Times New Roman
A classic font seen everywhere in books and magazines, Times New Roman is often criticised for being a bit dull and overused and perhaps a bit difficult to read due to the small space between letters. Don’t let this put you off, though - it’s famous and popular for good reason. In addition to looking good, it’s nearly universally supported by the devices your subscribers use to read your mail so you can be sure it will display properly.
Like Times New Roman, Georgia is another classic serif font. It’s easy to read thanks to the appropriate brightness between letters and is easy on the eyes as well.
Which fonts to avoid
Fonts, no matter how carefully chosen and well designed, shouldn’t be the most important feature of your email newsletter. Extra, unnecessary ornamentation just distracts from the substance of your message.
We will now turn to the kinds of fonts to use in the text that comes after your headers. Using a variety of fonts in headers isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the text where you communicate the substance of your message is usually reserved for more restrained, minimalistic fonts. There are, however, some fonts that you should stay away from.
It’s best to avoid ornate and hard to read fonts that can cause problems for readers. These includes:
Despite its nice appearance, Brush Script is simply hard to read in longer passages.
Other fonts that simulate handwritten language, like Bradley Hand, have a similar problem.
You also need to watch out for other “fancy” fonts that can ruin the overall design of your text or make it too messy to read.
Apart from hard-to-read fonts that can display improperly on different devices, you also need to watch out for two fonts that you should avoid altogether in your newsletter campaigns.
If you want to be treated seriously, don’t use Comic Sans. It’s as simple as that. Even though it’s a “safe” font and you see it all the time, just stay away from it. The reason is simple - it looks childish and unprofessional. It was created by Vincent Connare in 1994 for dialogue balloons in comic books. Keep that in mind if you even think about using it.
There’s even a song about Comic Sans, “How can you hate a font that’s so fantastic? It’s the best font in the world…..used in moderation.” I don’t even think you should use it in moderation but to each his own.
Here’s another safe font that you should avoid in your newsletters. Courier comes across as a technical, machine-made style. It’s a monotype font, meaning that the width of most characters is uniform. Its appearance makes it better for writing computer code than advertising copy.
Even though Impact itself isn’t that bad of a font and it looks good in headers, it’s only here so I can show you what it looks like in longer texts. I think you’ll agree - good for headers, bad for everything else.
Rules for readable newsletters
When creating your newsletter campaigns, stick to a few basic rules regarding how easy it should be to read.
To make your message easier to read, limit the number of different styles you use to a minimum. Among hundreds of different fonts that tempt you, don’t use more than 2 or 3 of them. Adding too many makes your design look unfocused and thrown together.
The same applies to colors. Keep the number down to three to keep a consistent and professional appearance.
Also, don’t get carried away with decorative fonts. Don’t feel like you have to use them because you don’t. If you decide that you just can’t live without them, limit them to titles and small accents on your text. Don’t make readers decode your content because they will just decide to move on instead.
If you want a certain piece of text to stand out, use bold or Italics. Underlining suggests a hyperlink so use it only for that purpose. Don’t overuse CAPITAL LETTERS, which are fine if you just want to emphasize just one word but more than that just comes across as shouting.
The font size also matters. It can’t be too small because that makes it hard to read. Use different sizes in different places to make headers stand out from paragraphs. This also helps to limit the number of different fonts you use in the design too.
Let’s move on to how your content is presented in your message. If you have a lot of text, don’t center it all. Our eyes are used to reading from left to right and it just comes more naturally to us. Align your paragraphs to the left and make it easier for readers.
Divide bigger blocks of text into smaller pieces. Having too much text in one place can scare readers away and doesn’t look good aesthetically anyway. A good way to break it up is to use lists and bullet points but still, don’t get carried away!
The final word on fonts
When creating your message you sometimes have to compromise between its appearance, how readable it is and how easily accessible it is to recipients. Choosing widely-used “safe” fonts in your message allows you to be sure that subscribers will see the same message that you designed.
If, however, you really need to use a particular font that’s just right for your text, you have to remember that certain recipients won’t see it exactly as you want them to. And remember that your font should match the character of your message and most often that means something from the sans serif group of fonts that are simple and easy to read.