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Q: Font Size and Reading Speed ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Font Size and Reading Speed
Category: Science
Asked by: linuxdiva-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 28 Oct 2005 13:14 PDT
Expires: 27 Nov 2005 12:14 PST
Question ID: 586134
Does the size of font affect how fast you read? In addition to your
answer I would also like to know where else I may be able to find this
kind of information.
Subject: Re: Font Size and Reading Speed
Answered By: welte-ga on 29 Oct 2005 10:12 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi linuxdiva-ga, and thanks for your question.

The short answer to your question is yes, to a point (so to speak). 
The full answer to your question is more complicated, and depends on
who's doing the reading.  There have been quite a few studies of font
size and reading speed.  Some of these have looked at particular
populations, for example, the elderly or children.  This general area
of research is a subfield with the area of the psychophysics of

Here's a short study that examined font size and reading speed in
ranging in age from 62 to 83, finding that (as you would expect)
larger font sizes resulted in faster reading:

The study above also looked at serif vs. sans serif fonts, not finding
a significant difference.


Another interesting, more comprehensive study looking at font types,
size, various levels of visions, etc., and their effects on reading
speed.  The study focuses on the visually impaired, but also discusses
normal subjects.

Arditi A, Knoblauch K, Grunwald I.  Reading with fixed and variable
character pitch.  J Opt Soc Am A. 1990 Oct;7(10):2011-5.

Figure 2 of this study looked at reading speed in words per minute
(WPM) vs. logMAR.  Unfortunately, this paper doesn't define logMAR. 
It's based on the MNREAD tool for testing visual acuity.  It's
calculated as
Acuity (logMAR) = 1.4 - (sentences x 0.1) + (errors x 0.01).

You can read more about logMAR here:

You can also convert logMAR to a more familiar Snellen fraction (e.g. 20/20, etc.):

Based on this paper, there is a critical font size, above which
improvements in speed are slight.  This critical font size varies with
font type and the readers personal abilities or limitations (e.g.
macular degeneration, etc.).  See the Conclusion section of the above
paper on page 12 for a discussion of their findings.


This paper, also free online, looked at the effect of font size and
letter spacing on reading speed with respect to the effects within
peripheral vision.  This paper also looked at central vision.

Chung ST.  The effect of letter spacing on reading speed in central
and peripheral vision.  Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2002

You can read a summary of research on type size with respect to
reading and children here:

One of the major articles described in this summary is not available
online, but is summarized here:

Here's a  fairly comprehensive bibliography relating to typefaces and
children's books:


Search strategies:

Google scholar is an excellent tool for this kind of search:
"reading speed" "font ~size"

You can also search for articles on PubMed that are related (called
PubMed neighbors) to an article that is close to what you're looking
for.  Here's a list of articles close to the Arditi article above:


I hope this information is useful.  Please feel free to request any
clarification prior to rating.


Clarification of Answer by welte-ga on 03 Nov 2005 16:15 PST
Thanks for the kinds words and high rating!  The answer took probably
2-3 hours all together, if you don't count the time when my son was
trying to pull the keys off my Powerbook :-)

Typography is one of my hobbies, so it was a fun question to answer.


linuxdiva-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for taking the time to help me through that second article.  I
also really like that you gave me a quick summary of the articles you
linked.  Do you mind my asking how long it took you to find all the
links, read through it, and put together the answer?  It seems like an
awful lot of work!

Subject: Re: Font Size and Reading Speed
From: tomwalz-ga on 31 Oct 2005 07:59 PST
You might look at "Ogilvie on Advertising" for related subjects on layout, etc.

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