Typography

What is the Difference Between Serif and Sans-Serif?

There are two categories of fonts, and all the fonts fall in these two categories. All of us use fonts, but you might not know which group of fonts you are using. There are two main different font types: sans-serif and serif, and in this article, I will tell you the difference between the two. But before that let me tell you a bit about how and where they should be used.

Serif Fonts in More Detail

Serif fonts – serif fonts have an extension on the end of their letters. The word serif means, in general, little decorative extensions strokes that are attached to each character. Each serif letter has an extension which helps them to stand out when we are reading different words.

Serif font is the more evolved version of letters which were carved into the stone which was the medium people used to write on. In the beginning, people only used to engrave letters on stones which slowly started to form words and later on whole sentences.

letters cut into the stone

Because letters were carved into the rocks; there used to be a natural extension stroke at the end of each letter.

These strokes were natural. In those days, people only carved messages on stones when something important had to be written because letter engraved into the stone would last a long time.

Thought the history serif fonts were used because they look conservative and stand out. So, the message written with serif font was easily read by the people it was meant for.

Sans-Serif Font from A to Z

The word sans means without. So, sans-serif fonts are without serif which is without any extensions on the letter endings. That means there are no small structures before or after the character. Sans-serif fonts are very clean, and nowadays people use it mostly in digital media.

Sans-serif fonts were first used in 1816 by William Caslon IV on his typeface book. From there it started becoming popular. People loved this new kind of typeface. It began to appear all over Europe and from there the word spread, and sans serif type began popping up all over the world.

William Caslon IV portrait
Portrait of William Caslon IV

This typeface appeared in Europe under the name “Grotesque,” and in the US it was called “Sans-Serif.”

The simplicity and boldness of sans-serif made people fall in love with this new typeface and that it’s why it’s the most common type used in different media from print publications to web sites.

The quality of sans-serif font shines especially in the digital world, where letters appear more clearly on the screen which helps with the overall readability of the text.

About the Most Popular Font: Times New Roman

There are a lot of popular serif fonts but among the most popular is Times New Roman. Times New Roman is the most widely used serif font. It is the most renowned serif font in the world, and a lot of print media is written with this font.

Times new roman was created when the British newspaper company Times of London hired a new typeface creator to create a new font for their newspaper. The name of the typographer employed by the times of London was Stanley Morison.

times new roman sample

Stanley Morison was the leader of the project which was established to create a new typeface for the newspaper company “Times of London.”

Stanley Morison supervised the project and had Victor Lardent under his wing who was an advertisement guy in the newspaper company The Times of London.

Stanley Morison along Victor Lardent and others created the new typeface which became a new official font of Time of London newspaper. The font became instantly liked, and people loved reading articles written with the new typeface.

Now, you have to understand this font was created around the 1920s, so we should keep in mind that at that time, there were not so many sans-serif typefaces around as they are today.

court house from above

Times new roman is still pretty commonly used in court. Though it is almost impossible to write in Times new roman, lawyers must type and print all necessary documents in precisely 12 points Times New Roman. But it is not mandatory for you to submit your legal papers in Times New Roman if you get yourself in the situation where you will be submitting one.

Times new roman was initially created for a newspaper and makes sentences occupy less space which enables publishers to print more information on each page of the paper.

About Most Popular Sans-Serif Font: Arial

There are also a lot of favorite sans-serif fonts, but the most widely used san-serif font is Arial, which is one of the digital typefaces. We can safely say that the new modern era ushered in a new era for modern typefaces.

Arial was first programmed and used in a 1990s IBM machine. This font is simple and easy to understand. The font came pre-installed in the 1990s IBM machines.

arial font sample

It was a big hit in the typeface world and made IBM proud of their new typeface creation, which was loved by the users all around the world.

The market for Serifs fonts decreased as the new fonts and typefaces of san-serif started to appear. Arial font is liked because it is easy to read and is bold enough for a person to read the text carefully.

Final Words: What is the difference between Serif and San-Serif?

On Social Medias like – Facebook, Instagram, etc people mostly use fonts that are easy to understand and read. In these places, you will barely see ads or posts to be posted on a serif font rather than a san-serif font.


“Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.”


― Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style

As you can see san-serif fonts are widely used throughout the media which makes them SERIF in town (pun intended), but different people have different tastes, and some may like serif typefaces and others may like the opposite.

I wrote this article to show you the differences between the two major font types so you can make your decision which one will you use more easily.


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