Best font for legibility at small size
March 29, 2015 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I am editing a booklet that will contain text at approximately the same size as Times New Roman 9 pt. I'm wondering if there is some other font that is generally accepted to be more (or most) legible at the equivalent size.

Added complication: This text will be used as an aide-mémoire rather than for narrative reading purposes. In order to reduce the size of the booklet as well as to increase portability, many letters are left out. Thus, for example, "Ts txt wl b usd as n ad-mre rtr tn fr nartv rdg pps." The text size and missing letters are non-negotiable.
posted by slkinsey to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Nine points isn't really that small. I think the NY Times prints at 8.7 pt. That said, Bell Gothic was designed specifically for legibility at small sizes.
posted by adamrice at 11:48 AM on March 29, 2015

At my work we print fine print on coupons at 5pt in Helvetica often and it's readable. A sans-serif font as such will be more readable as Times New Roman is serif font.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:14 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Depends on the measure, how you print it, and how well that method works with the stock it's printed on. Great long lines of abbreviated text will be hard to read. Fonts designed for small point sizes look pretty chunky at anything bigger than their design size.
posted by scruss at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2015

Sans-serif fonts readable at small sizes? That's not what the research says.

TL;DR there's no real difference that anyone can reliably measure.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 2:32 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Generally, for better legibility at smaller point sizes, you'll want a typeface with a large x height in proportion to the cap height.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 4:02 PM on March 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sans vs Serifs testing is never absolute, I prefer sans, but with a little heft

Officina Sans would would qualify with a larger x-height.

A narrower face (like Officina Sans) will help with the fitting things a little tighter. Sun, Rotis Sans, Corporate SBQ, DIN and Interstate are all good (any good, "corporate" sans would be good). All of these are pretty pricey.

Effra, which is a little wider, is in TypeKit and (I think) really legible at smaller sizes.
posted by 99_ at 10:14 PM on March 29, 2015

I have used Copperplate Gothic Light at 7. It's an all cap, serif font. Not everyone likes it I guess but I thought it looked elegant. It's certainly readable.
posted by irisclara at 10:47 PM on March 29, 2015

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