What is a body font?
A body font is the font that is used throughout a document. Or another way to think of it: it is the font that all the content is in. The font does not need to be the same as the headings.
What makes a good body font?
A good body font is one that is easy to read. Always think about readability. This means not just the legibility of the font itself, but also the size. It is always a good idea to print out the document and pass it around to a few people to see if they can read it.
Think of your audience and the purpose
There is a trend to go with small fonts but this might mean your audience can’t read the text. What is the point of your document if nobody can read it. Also consider how people will be reading it, the purpose. For example a report or book can be in a different font to a website since one is printed and one is on the screen.
Serif font versus sans serif font
There is also a general rule that if the document is text heavy (think novel or long report) to use a serif font. Serif fonts are the ones with little feet. Whereas the general rule is if it is for screen then use sans serif. Sans serif fonts don’t have feet. This is not a hard and fast rule. Remember, on the screen, screen resolutions are amazing today so the rule that was made up in the 1980s doesn’t necessarily apply anymore.
Bold and italic
Once you know if you are going with serif or sans serif consider if there are alternative fonts. Did you know that an italic font and a font set to italic are not actually the same thing! An italic font is designed to look more beautiful and flowy than the standard word processers version of italic. Not all fonts have an actual italics version. When this is the case, the word processor just slants them. You can see from these examples, that a slanted font is not the same as an actual italic version. The difference is much more pronounced in the serif fonts.
The same goes for bold fonts. The spacing is quite different in an actual bold font versus a Word processor bold version which essentially adds a stroke to the font. This difference makes it seem like the ‘fake’ bold is smaller.
If you find the right kind of font, you have access to bold italic which is very different again. Many fonts even come in a range of weights or thicknesses. Here is a good example of the kind of range a font can come in.
Picking a good body font
While technically there are no right or wrongs, making sure it is legible, readable and that you have options when it comes to bold and italic makes for a good font.