Kelly, this is the best description I've seen so far on why serif fonts
might be easier to read on the printed page.

It doesn't seem to address, though, why serif fonts might NOT be ideal
on the screen.  I suspect that the simpler forms are easier to read in
the constant light emitted from an electronic display, but that isn't
stated precisely...


-----Original Message-----
From: Kelly McDaniel [] 
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2008 9:21 AM
To: framers at
Subject: RE: Questions about look and feel.

OK, you've worn down my resistance and I must register my observations.

Reading on the computer screen is different from reading a printed page.
Reading on an LDC or TFT display is slightly different than reading on a
CRT. (A CRT oscillates at, or very, very near the frequency of the
electric supply current. LCD and TFT displays do not oscillate, or at
least they display a more intense image persistance.)

The printed page depends on reflected light. The background of the page
reflects all wavelengths (rendered white...most of the time, anyway) and
the print on the page blocks all wavelengths (rendered black...same
proviso as background) of light. On the printed page, serifs serve the
purpose of making the outline of each printed character distinct from
the background by creating a longer border between the printed character
and the background. This provides the eye more information whereby it
can decode the character. Once again, the printed page depends on
reflected light, and how well the characters block the reflection
(render resolution.) There is a spanner (disturbance variable) in the
works, however, and the spanner is this: The publisher has no control
over the quality, color, or amount of light. Serifs help resolve this
issue. Reading glasses help even more.

Reading on a computer display differs from reading the printed page in
this respect: The light is direct, in contrast to reflected light. Light
emanates from the display. The characters and the background both block
all wavelengths of light that are not contained in their respective
colors. This difference is an important consideration when deciding to
use serif or sans serif fonts. Reflection, refraction, and ocular
persistence come into play.

In general, serif fonts are "better" for printed works. Sans serif fonts
are "better" for screen displays, but, I could be wrong...regards,

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