Serif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?

Serif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?

Serifs are small lines tailing from the edges of the letters and symbols, separated into distinct units for a typewriter. Sans serif means that the typeface is without the tails like that in the serifs. Today is this article we are going to discuss which one has an edge over the other typeface; serif or sans serif.

Serif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?

Anatomy of Serif

Serif typefaces are among some of the oldest typefaces. They are used in everything from book publishing to newspapers and magazines to billboards and websites. It has a little decorative stroke that extends from letters that make it a ‘serif’. It can be in the form of a tail, sharp or blunt, decorative or plain. Each serif typeface will have a distinctive style for this mark that makes the family of the typeface identifiable.

These can be both upper and lower case letters within a font family. Some of the serif typefaces include Times Roman (and Times New Roman), Rockwell, Georgia, and Baskerville.

Anatomy of Sans Serif

Sans serif typefaces are considered more modern and include a variety of widths and shapes. This style of typeface doesn’t have the strokes or tails at the ends of letters and hence the name sans serif. Sans serif typefaces have a look that is direct and simple.

Some of the sans serif typefaces include Helvetica, Arial, Futura and Franklin Gothic.

Usage of these typefacesSerif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?

  • For projects involving lengthy text, such as books, newspapers, and magazines, serif typefaces are used.
  • Sans serif typefaces are used for reports and brochures. Sans serifs can also work well for magazines and other printed materials.
  • For other shorter text settings, such as captions, credits, column headings, as well as text in charts and graphs, a sans serif typeface can be a good choice.

Serif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?


Readability is considered as for how easily a reader can understand the content/text. Because serifs are easier to read, many newspapers and textbooks use serifs as their general form. The decorative lines or tails in serif typeface draw attention at the same time doesn’t stress the eye while longer reads.

The space between letters also gives more room for the reader to easily identify letters from each other. Serif fonts create an easier reading experience to the eye because it creates gaps between the letters and the words. This makes moving your eye from one word to another easier.


Legibility is defined as the quality and clarity of lettering. This concerns fine details of the typeface and is essential because it helps the reader differentiate one character from another. This differs from readability because the latter is concerned mostly in approaching the content as a whole. However, it is important to note that if your typeface is illegible, it can never become readable. But there many cases of legible types that can appear unreadable because of how they are spaced or scaled relative to their design purpose.

There are five noteworthy features when it comes to legibility:

  1. Serif or Sans-serif
  2. Point Size
  3. X-Height
  4. Counters
  5. Ascenders and Descenders

Scaling and Resolution

Text in web design isn’t static. It can differ from screen to screen and would need to be scalable. This is done so that the text would still be readable despite the screen size. Sans serif is more flexible to scaling. Sans-serif fonts are much easier to provide emphasis and readability in smaller resolutions since they survive smearing due to the lack of detail in them.

A total compilation of the differences between Serif and Sans Serif:

Serifs Sans- Serifs
Embellished, decorative. Modern, minimal
Easier to read in printed works Easier to read on the web
Serifs are used to bind characters into consistent ‘word wholes’ Sans-serif is mostly used for emphasis
Use of serif in normal body copy Use sans serif for small text
Ex. Times Roman Ex. Arial

Serif versus Sans serif, which one is a better typeface?

In conclusion, the font that works well is basically both! The Serifs are excellent for printed purpose as the mood of the serif is elegant; sophisticated henceforth it is apt for books, newspaper, magazines etc. While on the other hand, Sans Serif is straight forward, direct without any ornamentations hence it works well on a screen i.e., for the web.

In the end, it is always the choice of the designer as to which font to choose and which not. The main focus in a text is the message that should get conveyed. Happy designing!

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