Jessica Wells Russell

Have you ever considered how important your font can be?

Think about it this way: Have you ever read something and mistook one letter for another? And for a moment, you have to do a double take and figure out what’s actually being said.

Like, there’s no wayyy that a grocery store is actually selling key lime farts. Right???:

Sooo many questions here.

Giggles aside, this is just one of the more ~appropriate~ examples of bad font choices. And you may be surprised to learn that even the most well-known and seemingly thoughtful brands are guilty of this offense.

Choice of web font makes a huge difference, particularly when used for digital marketing on the web and in email, company newsletter and visual design. Even font style and font size make a huge difference in how consumers perceive your brand. Your font can support a certain theme, contribute to the overall feeling and personality of a piece and can seriously make or break your messaging.

Today we’re talking about font selection as it relates to email marketing. When choosing the font you use in your brand’s email campaigns, there are a few things to take note of.

Is Email Font Really That Big of a Deal?

Ummmm… YES. Fonts come in all kinds of different styles and sizes, and the way letters are displayed across email clients – including shape and spacing – can all have an impact on your reader. It’s a huge part of email design, folks.

The typeface you choose has a personality and conveys a message all its own. So when things look a little off, or simply don’t line up with your message and overall brand image, your prospects will notice. There are certain web-safe fonts that you want to keep in mind if you want to keep readers from thinking “What the…?”

Take, for example, poor Ralph and Joe, who made an unfortunate font choice for their masonry company.

Sorry, boys, but if your tilework looks anything like your font choice, I won’t be hiring you for my kitchen remodel anytime soon.

Here’s another one:

Feeling calm yet? YA SURE???

Here, we can see that factors like punctuation and color choice play a significant role as well.

Let’s try something more like:

That’s much better.

Worse still, when your font is off, readership and understanding will fall off as well. Recipients can easily get distracted by As that look like Cs, or say, the use of a fun, playful web font within a professional email with a serious message. A web font that does align with your message and brand image, on the other hand, can help keep recipients’ attention, improving overall click-through rates.

Choosing Your Font: Things to Think About

Before selecting your ‚best email font‘, there are few questions you should answer first:

  • Why should we care about the best fonts to use in email? Font size, font style and overall font type make a major difference in the way you promote your brand and your message via email. A default font can have a very different impact on readers than a custom font. Font choice is a major representation of your voice and your brand and can make or break your first impression with consumers.
  • What kind of message are you looking to send? Is the email about something fun and exciting? Or does it have a more formal, weighty tone? All of this should play into your font choice. For instance, Helvetica Neue offers a more polished look that might suit corporate communication, while Trebuchet MS is a system font that’s both friendly and professional.
  • Will you use the same font throughout? Are you looking for uniformity, or to shake things up a bit? Keep in mind, though, that best practice says you should avoid using more than two fonts. Just remember, we’re not kids playing in a word processor anymore – it’s important not to go overboard. It’s best to stick to email-safe fonts like Lucida Sans for the body and perhaps a more distinctive Sans Serif font for headers.
  • To bold or not to bold? Bolding certain words, or using italics can change the way a font displays and can impact overall message and understanding.
  • What color will you use? It’s important to think about things like background color here to ensure readers won’t have trouble. Also, keep branding and your company colors in mind, particularly with email signatures. A web-safe font like Arial or Verdana can ensure that your emails look consistent across different email clients like Apple Mail.
  • Will these be HTML or plain text emails? HTML email allows you to include hyperlinks, custom fonts and other design and visual elements and are typically the best for supporting marketing campaigns and encouraging click-throughs. However, even with HTML emails, it’s crucial to use email-safe fonts to ensure that your message is accessible to all recipients.
  • Is it legible? I mean, that’s the whole point of email design, right? Remember to consider things like the shape of letters (certain letters can easily be mistaken for others in cursive, more flowery script) and spacing. It’s also important to think about how things will display on different-sized screens, particularly on mobile devices. The best font for email is one that maintains its readability across all devices and email clients.

Breaking Down Email Marketing Fonts: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Buckle up, because things are about to get controversial.

Okay, not really — unless you have super strong feelings about your favorite or least favorite fonts. If that’s the case, it’s time to set aside your personal preferences in the name of great email marketing.

You heard it here first: When it comes to emails, the “right font” isn’t necessarily the one you’re crazy about. It’s the one that gets your message across clearly while being accessible and easy to read for everyone who opens your email newsletter, marketing campaign or other message.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at which font choices are safe, which are a little questionable and which should be permanently banned from your email arsenal.

Fonts: The Good

Choosing the right font family can make email body copy simple and satisfying.

All that being said, there are a few typeface families that have proven to be web-safe, easy to read for email body copy and some of the best cross-platform fonts.

Serif font is characterized by short tails at the edges of letters that help lead readers’ eyes from one letter to the next.

See:

Times New Roman [The classic college essay fallback font}

Georgia

Rockwell

These fonts are often used in print as they’re easier to read than most fancy font types – I bet your favorite book is written in Times. Writers looking for something that’s clear but also more formal and business-like should use Serif fonts.

Sans-serif includes characters without any lines or tails (get it? SANS-serif?). You may recognize these as your email default font. Brafton uses Sans-serif for many of our emails and employee email signatures, as these are some of the most web-safe fonts.

This font family supports a more casual tone and includes:

Arial

Calibri

Verdana

These are often top choices for email body text as they’re clear, evenly spaced and simple to read on almost any screen size. Arial is an easy choice because it’s often a default font; this makes choosing one of the most web-safe fonts virtually effortless.

Fonts: The Bad

Certain fonts – unless you’re going for a wacky, zany kind of feel (like, you’re a toy company or something) – are best to stay away from, especially in the body copy of emails. However, depending on the message you’re sending, these fonts may have their place in certain parts of your email, like headers.

Script fonts look a lot like handwritten cursive, and many are only just a taaad bit clearer than the last prescription you got from your doctor.

This includes fonts like:

Lobster and Pacifico.

While these can provide a fancier, and even more personal feel (because they look like handwriting), prospects won’t appreciate having to squint to decipher the message.

Decorative fonts are typically used only for logos, taglines or headings because they’re usually more bold and attention-grabbing than other fonts.

Think:

Impact

Syncopate

If you’ve decided to mix fonts in your email, you might consider a more robust decorative font for the headline, paired with a more standard and clear font for body text. When used sparingly and specifically at large scale, script and decorative fonts like this can provide statement pieces in design, and evoke a certain mood or emotion from readers. However, these fonts must be large enough to read, and should only be used in moderation.

Fonts: The Ugly (Avoid at All Costs)

Comic Sans: No. Just… just stop. Unless you’re sending an invitation to your kid’s birthday party or using a birthday invitation template, no reader wants to see this.

Curlz: Need I say more?

Trajan: You might recognize this one from just about every movie poster you’ve seen in the last few years (aside from Avatar, which, haha, used Papyrus). Because this is a widely available font, it’s become sort of all-purpose. Basically, we can do better for your email copy.

Papyrus: WebDesignerDepot has dubbed this one “the king of bad fonts,” following it up with “equal parts childish, kitschy and irritating,” and I don’t think I could have described it better. Google doesn’t even support this font (or Curlz or Trajan, for that matter) in Gdocs – and that’s saying something.

Helvetica: This is more of my own personal preference because I had a newspaper editor in college who was obsessed with this font and made us adjust the whole style of our paper because they loved it so much. I still have nightmares where “Everything must be in Helvetica!!!” is being chanted in the background. (SPOOKY.) In any case, WebDesignerDepot agrees with me here, noting that while Helvetica is versatile and very visible, it’s also become rather overused.

The font you choose has a big impact. I mean, if I wrote this whole piece in an annoying font, you probably would have stopped reading wayyyy before now, no?

So remember: Different font styles matter. Serif and sans-serif fonts like Arial are your best friend. Keep your typeface consistent, but have a fallback font. Custom fonts can also be valuable as long as you keep it clean and legible, but sticking to a tried and true safe font family can improve your email engagement in the long run.

Font Choice: One Part of Complete Email Marketing

You didn’t think I was done, did you? 

Nope. Font size, font style and, of course, font color are all fun to think about, but they aren’t the only thing you need to get your email marketing campaign up and running. Here are a few more elements your emails should never leave home without:

A Solid Email Marketing Strategy

You can’t just send out emails on every whim — you need a plan. A solid strategy helps you decide which emails to send to whom and for what purpose, linking body copy to specific business goals or creating nurture campaigns.

That was just one sentence, but it dropped a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Let’s face it: This stuff isn’t easy — and that’s why an email marketing consulting service like Brafton’s might just be your new best friend. Our team knows what makes a good email, from typeface and text size to content and timing, which means we’re always ready to help you build a strategy that shows real results.

A Good Email Subject Line

It’s important to make a good first impression, especially when failing to do so could give your email a one-way ticket to the spam folder. Today’s audiences are sick of junk mail, and if they see your subject line as low-quality, irritating or otherwise suspicious, they might hit that “delete” button without a second thought.

That’s why you should always take your time and craft thoughtful, relevant subject lines to introduce your messages. Here are 2 examples:

“I want to tell you about a new deal we’re offering.”

This one’s weird, uninviting and oddly formal. Sure, there are situations where sending an email from an individual could have a valuable impact, but save that for the body copy and email signature — it seems a little spammy here. Plus, this subject line is unnecessarily wordy and, to be honest, not that interesting.

If this were a real email, it would only ever see the inside of my trash folder.

“Jessica, This Deal’s Just For You!”

Ooh, now this one makes me want to read more. It uses my name (more on personalization in a minute!) and promises status and prestige by offering a deal that’s apparently inaccessible to other customers. That’s right, folks: This email is telling me I’m special, and it’s working.

High-Quality Body Copy

Writing content for your email campaign is a big deal. You can’t include too much, or readers will get bored and wander off to their favorite social media site instead — but you also can’t include too little, or nobody will know what you’re talking about.

That’s why you may want to leave the copywriting to the pros.

Professional writers know how to pack a punch in as few words as possible. They also know how to turn your ideas, marketing goals and even company voice into body copy that creates real value for readers. If you want your emails to be the kind of thing people print off and hang on their wall, you need content that informs, delights and does its job just right.

A Savvy Call-to-Action

Readers want to know why you’re hanging around in their inbox. Your email body copy and subject line do most of the heavy lifting, but a call-to-action (CTA) is the icing on the cake.

A good CTA should make it clear what you want readers to do with the wisdom your email just imparted. That means you need to link to a highly relevant product page or offer — not some generic part of your website that has nothing to do with the email content. It’s also important to choose your wording carefully; you want to provide information, offer a solution, promise an opportunity or otherwise gain a reader’s attention. Truth be told, I’m not going to click on a CTA link unless your phrasing gives me a really good reason to do so.

Personalization

The final tool in your email arsenal is also one of the most important: personalization.

Get Your Email Marketing Fix

If you’re pretty sure you’ll never see fonts the same way again, this blog post has done its job.

Remember, fonts can have a big impact — but they’re only one part of the email marketing puzzle. You need elements like great body copy, a powerful CTA and a healthy dose of personalization to really stand out in a crowded inbox.

Are you looking for examples of all these email marketing practices in action? Not to brag, but the Brafton email newsletter has it all. Subscribe today to see for yourself!

Editor’s Note: Updated March 2024.