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Times. Arial. Helvetica. Georgia.

If you’re not exactly sure what to do with each one, there is a chance your fonts are working against you. While art school graduates and font snobs alike may possess a favorite down to the specific kerning, you don’t necessarily have to show the same affection for typography. What you can’t do, however, is allow something simple like font choice inadvertently make a statement for you without meaning to.

Not spending the same amount of time and effort on the presentation of your message as you do crafting that message can lead you to being on shaky ground. You might have crafted that perfect newsletter, whitepaper, blog post or presentation, but if the message is lost in its presentation, the meaning is lost as well.

We’ve all been guilty of it before; you open the mail to find black 10-pt., single-spaced type crammed into the entirety of the free space. If you made it more than two sentences into the message, you likely did better than 80 percent of the rest of the audience. Humans are visual creatures. You have to present your message in a way that makes your audience want to take part in it.

The flipside of the coin is doing too much presentation work. There are some specific rules that go along with typography, and breaking those is just as much of a turn off to readers as doing nothing at all.

Comics sans and Papyrus have become the butt of jokes the design world over, and for good reason. Often without even knowing anything about typography, we associate a feeling with seeing fonts like these. Comic Sans is nearly impossible to take seriously. Papyrus tells us the message is an impostor. Don’t use either. Ever. For any reason, please.

Making sure that your message is presented in a way that makes the audience engaged in it before they start can seem like a daunting challenge, but paying attention to the rules of good design can make your audience more receptive to the message, and isn’t that exactly what you want from them?

NYTimes image via Flickr user jenny8lee

Helvetica image via Flickr user briancray

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