Serifs and San serifs

You may come across the terms serifs and san serifs a lot while learning about letterforms, typefaces, fonts and calligraphy.  You may wonder what is the difference between serifs and san serifs are?

What Are Serif Fonts?

Serifs letters have ‘feet’ at the end of the letters, and small-embellished details at the end of each letterform.  Examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman, Bookman Old Style, and Copperplate.  As you can see, these typefaces have little flourishes at the end of each letter.  This is said to be easy on the eye and easier to read. 

F G H I a b c  Shown on the left is typical serif letters illustrating the little decorated flemished details on the foot of the letters and hanging at the ends.  This style is commonly used in printed texts and is known as serif fonts.

When we read serif texts, it is said to be easier on the eye and the brain and it is quicker to read serif fonts.  However, when looking at the very small serif letters or reading them from a low-resolution screen, they can loose their character and become harder to read because of their complex forms.

What Are San Serif Fonts?

San Serif fonts do not have these little details at the ends of each letters.  The letterforms are simpler in appearance.

F G H I a b c The san-serif font shown on the left has a simpler appearance.  The characters do not have the little flemished details at the foot and end of the texts.

Sans is French for ‘without’.  The term is called sans-serif or sans serif.  Typical sans serif fonts are Arial and Gothic typefaces.

Introducing Serifs and San Serifs In Calligraphy

You can experiment writing calligraphy introducing serif and san serif fonts.  First of all, write some plain text using the Foundation Handstyle.  Then introduce the serif details on the ‘foot’ and ‘ends’ of each letters by ending each straight letter with the serif detail, such as the Roman fonts.  See how the appearance changes from a plain text to a more ‘printed look’. However, Gothic calligraphy does not have the serif characterization.  The ends of the letters do not have the flemished details.  It is said that the word ‘Gothic’ came from the word ‘grotesk’ in German, meaning grotesque.

Serifs And San Serifs Today

The serif fonts are traditionally used by editors and publishers for printed texts, books, and newspaper articles.  The San serif texts are more commonly used for computer screens, hand held devices, display units and magazines for the younger generation.