You may never hear anyone say, "words are worth a thousand words" but enough books have been written about Serif and Sans Serif Fonts to fill a library if you're interested. Our intention here, however, is to simplify the discussion about Serif vs. Sans Serif fonts.
Simply put, Serifs are small lines at the beginnings and ends of characters in a font family. Sans Serif fonts do not have those lines (Sans meaning 'without' in French).
Here are some recognizable examples of each –
Times New Roman
Sans Serif Fonts
For years, the standard rules of when to apply Serif vs. Sans Serif fonts have remained the same.
Sans Serif fonts should be used for Titles and Headers
Serif fonts should be used for Text
These rules still apply when designing for PRINT. The Serif leads your eyes to the next letter more naturally and visually allows the reader to read faster and comprehend more of what is written. The Sans Serif, without the lead in to the next letter, slows down the speed that the header is read to make more of a statement.
Computers, on the other hand, have changed those rules. WEBSITE design takes into consideration that your monitor only shows images at about 72ppi so some of the details of a Serif font may be lost. Sans Serif fonts are the preferred choice in website design.
One last consideration when choosing Serif vs. Sans Serif fonts is NEVER use a Serifed font when using white type on a dark background. You'll have to trust us on this. That's a whole other article.
Read more interesting DESIGN articles in our archives.