Is your type sexy enough?


HTWB sexy typeDoes your type resonate with your readers and make them lust after your wonderful words? Does it draw them into your very being and sell them on how wonderful you are? Or does it put them off after just a few sentences?

No, I’m not going into soft porn: purely into how attractive your typestyles are in the text that you publish online.

In a recent article here on HTWB we got into some lengthy and fascinating discussions not only about business cards, which was the original topic, but also about various typographical matters that can influence how people view you … as well as the printed words that represent you.

This got me thinking about wider usages of typography in business and other online (and offline) communication, and here are some of the issues that struck me as important. What do you think?

Reversed-out type: OK or not?

As designer/photographer Nicola Gaughan suggested in her comments on that post, reversed-out type (white or other light-colored text on a dark background) can be hard to read, especially if the font size is small. Larger type used for headlines and maybe sub-headlines is OK reversed out as it attracts attention, but once it gets compressed down it just disappears.

But many people use the reversed-out style not only for headlines and sub-headlines, but also for their entire blogs or websites. Is this wise?

For me, to read more than a paragraph or two of reversed out type online or in print makes my eyes go very funny indeed. And not funny ha-ha, either … my eyes flash and retain a ghost image for several seconds afterwards. Is this the result of my having astigmatisms in both eyes?

No, it seems not. I’ve had a good look around the webby-net and found expert after expert saying that white out of dark text is much harder to read than the reverse wherever you read it. There are too many references to list here – if you don’t believe me, Google it!

Bottom line, though, is … if you want your text to be invitingly readable, don’t reverse it out no matter how much your web designer might say it will look OK.

Using white space – it works better than text

Copywriters and the more savvy of graphic designers have been wittering on for years about the white space issue but still some people regard the slightest patch of white space on a website or piece of print to be wasted money.

Silly, silly. Putting more white space around your text – or your images, for that matter – adds emphasis and allows readers to absorb your messages easily and thoroughly. Lots of type and pictures confuse the eye and the brain and ensure that readers move on ASAP.

Use fonts that work everywhere

medium_3832411527Now that text representations on the internet have become so sophisticated, you’d think that you could use the fanciest of texts for your articles, blog posts, website pages, emails etc., wouldn’t you?
But no.

The reality is that there are still umpty-dump different platforms, email clients, mobile devices and Heaven knows what else all out there being used by your readers / potential customers.

Consequently, it makes a lot sense to use text in simple, easily recognizable fonts, like Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica and … well, that’s about it.

Boring, I know. But you don’t want your precious words to disappear into a flurry of unrecognizable symbols in someone’s email client in Singapore … or, worse still, to be mis-translated into the language of a culture in which you’d like to make an impact. Keep it simple.

Avoid columns online

Oh, this one really gets me freaking out! Why? Because it would seem to be an utter, total no-brainer, but still you see people creating website pages or emails that put the text into neat, vertical columns just like they were in the good old days of newspapers.

People reading stuff online do not  want to zig-zag across vertical parallel columns in order to understand your text.

They may look good – especially when you print it out – but trust me, online it sucks. And such mistakes will not exactly endear you to your readers.

Use sub-heads to get your message over

If your text consists of long blocks of type without any breaks, can you blame your readers for getting bored with it and clicking on to their Twitter page to find something that does manage to grab and hold their attention?

Keep them riveted with frequent sub-headings that carry on the main theme, each leading them on to the next paragraph.

blogging,writing,blog writing,business,newsletter,,How To Write Better,Suzan St MaurThis is a lesson learned from brochure and advertising writing days, but it still applies today when we’re looking at online articles and posts … use headlines and sub-heads to guide the reader through the key points of your story.

See how I have used sub-headings to recap the key points in this article:

Reversed-out type: OK or not?

Using white space – it works better than text

Use fonts that work everywhere

Avoid columns online

Use sub-heads to get your message over

Above all else?

Being someone who has been around the typographical block (as well as the online block) a few times, I would just repeat … keep it simple, especially if you’re dealing with an international audience.

What do you think? Please share your views here.

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family – from just $2.50 (less than £2.00!)

photo credit: balt-arts via photopin cc
photo credit: FontFont via photopin cc




  1. I first started thinking about typography when the world was new and I was in grad school. Have loved it ever since.

    Most important point: readability really is king!

    • Absolutely, Mary … but you try explaining that to some graphic designers who fall in love with the look of some fonts without thinking too hard about how they will look when viewed on a much smaller screen, or through some pretty basic email client that doesn’t understand half the twiddles and whizzing bow ties…! It’s hard to persuade these people that typeset CAN look nice without being fancy or lavishly daring…

  2. I’ve seen websites like that. Only recently I saw the website of a photographer. I think his pictures were nice, but the font and colour of the text gave me such a headache, I clicked away from the page. I wonder how many people lose business because of that …

    • Good point, Angelika – and that wouldn’t be an easy thing to measure, either. I have feeling that readability/usability are issues that still don’t receive as much attention as they should online, even though experts like Dr Jakob Nielsen et al have been trying to make us focus on that for years now.


  1. […] Blog post at How To Write Better : Does your type resonate with your readers and make them lust after your wonderful words? Does it draw them into your very being an[..]  […]