The definitive guide to email typography: Best font for emails

10 min

With more than 200,000 fonts available for use, it’s clear that the digital world cares a great deal about how letters look. Different fonts serve different purposes, so selecting the right font is about legibility, conventions, utility, and a brand’s style. 

But if you’re looking for a TLDR, here it is:

If you’re looking for the best font for emails, you’ll want to stick to web-safe fonts such as Arial, Verdana, and Helvetica.

For size, we recommend that you use at least 14-16px for body text, and at least 18-20px for headlines.

But why should we care about the best font to use in emails in the first place? Because email is an enduring way to build relationships with people.

The font you choose defines the look and feel of your email. The right font can represent your brand and evoke a certain emotion, but with a wide selection of fonts, choosing just the right one can be a difficult task.

With all that goes into an email campaign or customer success correspondence, you’ll want to ensure you’re approaching your leads in the best way. This includes choosing fonts that are compatible with the email reading experience. 

So which font should be the go-to for your email? Here are the best email typography tips.

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Email font families

To organize this immense collection of fonts, they are sorted among the categories: serif, sans serif, display, handwriting, or monospace. Some fonts are utilitarian, and others are exaggerated for special uses like graphic design. 

Not all font families are included in the email space. While it might be charming to compose an email with handwritten style fonts, it’s just not practical. 

System fonts

System fonts comparison.
System fonts

With web and mobile applications, a default font is chosen for you (or an alternative can be selected from a short list). Such fonts are simple and easy to read. They aren’t about personality, they are about utility. 

“System fonts”, also known as “web safe fonts”, are fonts that can be displayed on all devices or within any application. Of the thousands of font creations, only a handful have been adopted collectively by the mainstream. These universal fonts are known as Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Verdana.

However, popular email programs like Gmail and Outlook will allow display from a much wider selection known as “web fonts.” More on that later.

Let’s examine a line up of the usual suspects.

1. Georgia

Georgia font.

Georgia is a serif font design introduced by Microsoft in 1993. It’s styled after the early Scotch-Roman lettering.

Georgia’s lowercase numbers are taller, and the characters are thicker. This classic font is suited for online newspapers and magazines as it makes long blocks of text easy on the reader’s eyes. 

2. Times New Roman

Times New Roman font.

If you used Microsoft Word back in the day, you may have noticed Times New Roman was the default font. Traditionally, it’s been known as the standard font for academic papers.

Times font originates from the British newspaper of the same name. The serif-heavy Times New Roman was introduced as the modern version of the Times font. Its characters are condensed and the lowercase letters are tall with short ascenders and descenders.

Times New Roman is a relic of a bygone era. Compared to modern fonts, it’s not as easy to read and is not generally web appropriate.

3. Verdana

If readability is a top priority, Verdana is an excellent choice. It’s ideal for low-resolution screens. The characters are tall and wide with proportional shaping and spacing.

Fun fact: this font was named after the original designer’s child. The name is a combination of “verdant” meaning “green” plus the name “Ana.”

4. Trebuchet MS

Trebuchet MS font.

Named for a medieval catapult, Trebuchet launched into the digital world in 1996. It’s a bit more stylish than its predecessors with its pointy characters.

While it is easy to read, it’s not as smoothly read as other web fonts. It can be a choppy read with large blocks of text.

5. Arial

Arial font.

Arial is ageless and all-purpose. Nearly 40 years old, it’s still used in advertisements, magazines, newspapers, documents, and more. However, it’s frequent use makes it generic which is perfect when going for the strictly conventional.

Arial is assumed to be a safe bet default by programmers, but designers with a critical eye see its shortcomings. Not much space exists between the letters, and too much uniformity makes the letters not as distinguishable. Its contemporaries are more legible.

6. Helvetica

Helvetica font.

Originally designed in 1957, Helvetica looks fresh for its age. Designers approve of its ideal dimensions and shape. It’s a sans-serif font with wide capitals and rounded letters.

Bold and aesthetically charming, this font is ideal for print and web design. Helvetica is particularly well suited for logos and headers.

Web fonts

Have your favorite fonts not made the cut? Don’t be dismayed. Web fonts save the day!

HTML email allows you to send customized emails. With solutions like GetResponse email creator, you may customize emails with special fonts.  

A screenshot of GetResponse email creator allowing the use of custom fonts.
GetResponse email creator

Instead of reliance on the software to produce the font, web coding loads the font from an internet source. This way was paved with Google’s massive font collection.

However, the display of custom fonts isn’t guaranteed. HTML emails may not always load properly and perhaps the more obscure email providers haven’t yet enabled such features. If an email program can’t produce the intended font, it reverts to its default font.

A screenshot of GetResponse email creator showing the option of choosing a fallback font in case an obscure email provider can't load a custom webfont.
Choosing a fallback font

You still have some control over what happens when custom fonts don’t show up. A designated fallback font shows in place of the web font. A more “web safe” font of your choosing shows up instead.

How to choose the best font for your email

It’s all in the presentation. Your emails should do two important things: make the copy easy to consume and fortify the brand.

Some HTML emails will be graphic-heavy, some text-heavy (think newsletters). For emails that tell a story or contain several chunks of copy, fonts that are easy on the eyes make the body more consumable.

Fonts also reinforce brand identity. The more readers see your style, the more familiar they will become with your brand and attitude.

Serif or sans serif

Serif vs Sans Serif fonts.

Serif fonts are distinguished by the use of little tails attached to some letters. Times New Roman is a serif font that reflects the traditional style of typefaces. 

Serif is appropriate for time-honored traditional businesses like those in the financial and insurance industry. It’s associated with authority and long-standing institutions.

Sans serif is unembellished with the “feet” removed which gives it a more casual and modern look. These fonts are versatile and appropriate for a wide variety of industries. Sans serif style makes text-heavy content easy to read, so these would be the best fonts for newsletters.

Arial and Helvetica are sans serif fonts that are modern, yet adhere to convention and are considered to be the best font for business emails.

Font fits brand

Fonts have character. As I mentioned above, serif fonts are associated with a strictly business tone. They don’t usually jive with your modern trendy brands.

When designing a brand, a specific statement and nuance factor in. The right font harmonizes with the personality and mood of your brand.

Ask those with experience on what font fits best with your brand and learn the role typography plays in marketing.

Other font tips to increase conversions

Why do we put so much thought and care into email composition in the first place? Well, it just so happens that email is an extremely important channel and tool in the conversion process.

Taking the time to plan out the best email marketing strategy down to the fine details (like what font to use) plays a crucial role in the implementation of CRO marketing.

The sales funnel baton is passed on to an email sequence that guides prospects through a customer journey. Every touchpoint (especially email) counts toward encouraging your leads to follow through with the desired action.

Check out our Email Design Best Practices & learn how to create amazing emails from start to finish.

Emojis in the subject line

So much work went into getting that HTML email just right! But what good does it do if that email never gets opened?

Subject lines are ordinarily uniform in font and size when a user views the inbox interface. A user skims the sender column, the subject line column, and the preheader (preview text of what the email contains).

Marketers started using emojis in a subject line to stand out from the herd. A few tastefully placed emoticons can cause skimming eyes to hit the brakes and read the subject line more closely.

Just keep in mind that this approach doesn’t work for everyone. If a business is high-level, emoticons are probably not appropriate to use. Also, using too many emoticons runs the risk of being off-putting.

Also, be sure that the emoticons relate to the text in the subject line and that they are appropriate for your target audience.

If you want to find out more about this topic, check out best practices for using emojis in subject lines.

Color psychology

Brand colors support your brand identity. HTML customization allows you the liberty to use colors that add to the impact of your emails.

Color psychology plays a role in visual marketing and the colors you use in your branding and marketing materials communicate a particular mood to your audience. 

What is the predominant branding color of your business? It’s useful to be aware of what your color communicates to consumers about your business.

Tip: Match anchor text color to your brand color for some extra vibrance.

Email font size

With so much customization happening, is it okay to make the letters any size you want? Not really.

In the past, it was OK to use smaller font sizes, as most people were accessing the web using larger devices like desktops.

Nowadays, most marketers follow the mobile-first approach and pay more attention to web accessibility.

That’s why we recommend that you use a font size of at least 14-16px for body text, and at least 18-20px for headlines.

Line spacing

Studies have found that white space improves reading comprehension. Breaking your body text into small bites instead of corralling all into one mass makes the copy skimmable.

You don’t want your readers to get overwhelmed and close the email, so make it easy for them to breeze through and consume.

Number of fonts

So how many fonts should you use? We recommend using no more than two different fonts.

The pair should play well together and work in tandem to add to the structure of the body. 

For example, Helvetica as the sub-header text with Montserrat as the body text. 

Buttons in emails

HTML emails designed around a CTA (call to action) might include a button for the purpose of the email. How well does the text show up on the button? 

Choosing a font that stands out on the CTA buttons clearly communicates to the user what the button is for. The most important part here is the text/button color contrast. You don’t want red text on a pink button, as it won’t be legible and attention-grabbing.

A/B testing 

Make the most of your email campaign management tools by having two versions compete against each other. This is known as A/B or split testing.

If you’re unsure which font is best or what format works well, etc. you can make separate versions sent to separate groups of your email address. 

Monitor metrics to determine which version performs best. Finding out which emails are read through and which one gets more CTA follow-through builds upon best practices rather than just making a blind guess.

So, what’s your type?

Though fonts seem trifling, they are an important detail for email copy. Selecting the appropriate font for your emails should deliberate rather than passive.

Email is an integral part of the digital marketing conversion process. A thoughtfully designed email is a show of professionalism, care, and brand personality. 

See what beauty you can bring out of your emails by getting your free GetResponse account today :).

Luke Heinecke
Luke Heinecke
Luke is the Founder of Linear, a Utah based PPC agency that’s on a mission to grow companies. With an intense focus on helping clients increase conversion rates, they help companies grow their business and greatly improve their ROI. You can find Luke on Linkedin @Luke Heinecke.