Why the latest ClaroSpeak includes the OpenDyslexic font

Which font is easiest to read? Printers and designers and scientists have argued this for years. Are sans-serif fonts (strictly typefaces) like Arial clearer? Or do the embellishments of serif fonts like Times New Roman make it easier to read across the line?

There is not a very good clear answer. The simple one is that most people prefer, and find easiest to read, the fonts they read most often (1). Practice makes perfect. But there are exceptions: for example, people with a visual impairment certainly benefit from larger font sizes.

More interestingly, people with dyslexia often find it easier to read fonts that have clear differences between letters no matter their orientation (so b and d and p are not identical, even when rotated) and which have more obvious differences between letters, like a larger opening in the letter c so it looks less like an o. Microsoft Comic Sans is a ubiquitous font that fulfils some of these requirements and is therefore popular: Arial and Chalkface are also good.

A number of fonts have also been developed specifically for dyslexic people. They feature letters you cannot rotate, good letter openings and other helpful features. A recent one is the OpenDyslexic font, which has been made freely available by its creator, Abelardo Gonzalez, under an Open Source licence. You can download it from www.opendyslexic.org

We’ve also included OpenDyslexic in our latest version of ClaroSpeak, our iOS app, so you can read and write text in the OpenDyslexic font if its features help you to read it more easily. Try it out in ClaroSpeak: the most likely outcome is that you don’t find it any easier to read, but for some people using a font like this can make all the difference and help them to understand text and enjoy reading far more easily than before.

One last note: there’s some research suggesting that text that is harder to read is easier to remember and understand (2). Of course, if you can’t read it in the first place, this is no good to you: but it’s a reminder that there are many, many factors in reading and you should experiment with what is best for you.

1 Burt, C “A psychological study of typography” Cambridge University Press (1959).

2 Diemand-Yauman, C., et al. “Fortune favors the Bold (and the Italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes.” Cognition (2010).