Typefaces for Editing

Just another pretty face? Nothing wrong with that. If you’re editing in Microsoft Word, why not use a typeface that you’re comfortable reading and that makes editing easy? (Unless, of course, you’re editing documents that have already been carefully formatted for typesetting.) You can always apply the final typeface and formatting after your editing is finished (probably just by attaching a different template to the document).

Some typefaces lend themselves better to editing than others. Here are some things to look for in a typeface to use while you’re editing:

1. Legibility. Are the characters clear and easy to read?

2. Universality. Is the typeface readily available at no cost or low cost, and on other computers as well as your own?

3. Are special characters easy to distinguish? These include the hyphen, the en dash, the em dash, and opening and closing quotation marks.

I first thought that Courier might be a good font to use in editing. It’s nice and clear and can be found almost anywhere. Its hyphen and dashes, though, are practically indistinguishable, making it unsuitable for editorial work.

After considerable testing and exploration, I’ve found three typefaces that seem to me to work especially well for editing:

1. Times Roman (yep, that old chestnut), some variation of which you almost certainly have on your computer already.

2. Verdana.

3. Georgia.

Times Roman is actually a bit small and condensed (designed to fit lots of type into a newspaper column), but you probably won’t find a face with more easily distinguishable quotation marks and dashes. The em dash is nice and long, the hyphen is tiny, and the en dash falls comfortably in between. You just have to make sure that you get the point size big enough so you can read it comfortably.

Verdana is a Microsoft typeface that was designed for viewing on-screen, so it looks especially clean and legible on a computer monitor. Its quotation marks aren’t as clearly distinguishable as those in Times Roman, but they’re not bad, either. Verdana’s main drawback is that it’s a sans serif font, so the eye doesn’t glide from letter to letter. If you’re using Verdana for editing, however, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you may have a tendency to slow down a little as you read.

Georgia is another Microsoft typeface that was designed for viewing on-screen, so, like Verdana, it looks great on a computer monitor. Unlike Verdana, it has serifs, making it a little smoother to read.

You can download both Verdana and Georgia free of charge from Microsoft at the following address (which may break in your email and need to be put back together):


Using one of these fonts, you may want to create a template that you attach to documents you’re going to edit. If you don’t want to create such a template yourself, please feel free to use the Typespec template that comes with our Editor’s ToolKit program. You can download it at this address:


Whether you use the program or not, you can still use the template, which was created using the Verdana typeface (my current favorite) and has lots of styles for editorial markup. If you want to use a different typeface with the template, just open the template in Microsoft Word and change the Normal style to the font of your choice. Another approach is to use Times Roman, Verdana, or Georgia in the template you are currently using. You can always change back to the original font when you’re ready for final formatting.

You may not have given much thought to selecting a typeface for use in editing, just using whatever your client has used by default. You’ll probably find your work easier and more enjoyable if you use a typeface that you like and find easy to read. Why not give it a try?

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