Have you ever heard the terms ‘Sans Serif’ and ‘Serif’? These are two incredibly important terms when it comes to fonts and design. Knowing which one to choose can often make all the difference between a great looking a header graphic and a poor looking one.

But it goes even further …

When you’re writing headlines, sub headings and body copy on a web page it also pays to know your Sans from your Serifs.

Let me explain in laymen’s terms.

Serif fonts are the ones with the little curly bits that appear on each letter. For example on the letter ‘I’ you’ll either have curly sticky out bits on the top and bottom or you won’t. If you do, then it is a serif font. If you don’t then it is a sans serif font. The term ‘Sans-Serif’ comes from the French word ‘Sans’ which means without. Literally, it means ‘without the curly bits’.

Now, that is in layman’s terms. I’m sure a professional typographer would whack me over the head if he heard me talking about curly bits, but hopefully this description has helped you to understand the difference. Now, how does this help you when designing header graphics and web pages in general.

Well, the general consensus is that sans-serif fonts such as Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, and Tahoma, are the most appropriate to use in the body of a web page. The reason for this is interlaced monitors may show what is known as ‘twittering’ on the fine details of the serif fonts. In plain English, computer displays can struggle with the small curly bits on serif fonts, whereas Sans-Serif fonts display much clearer as there are no curly bits to struggle with.

When it comes to headlines, opinion varies considerably. As headline text is much larger, computer monitors don’t struggle to display the curly bits. However, a lot of modern web site designers prefer the cleaner look of sans serif fonts. The truth is that for headlines it very much depends on the theme of your site, the overall design style you have chosen, and even the color scheme you are using. The best advice is to try both types and see which one you like best.