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How to use email-safe fonts and typography for accessibility

Fonts are a great way to jazz up boring email copy. Learn how to use email-safe fonts to help your email marketers spice up their next digital marketing campaign.



In the digital realm, web accessibility means developing elements in websites or emails to bypass any temporal, situational, or permanent disability. After all, you want to help your email team reach as many users as possible.

On average, people spend 10 seconds reading brand emails. This means you have 10 seconds to grab their attention. Creating an accessible email with email-safe fonts and typography helps convey the message to those who find it difficult to access your emails and provides a great user experience for all of your subscribers.

In this article, we’ll talk about email-safe fonts, including what they are and why they’re important for your emails. Then, we’ll go over how to choose a font for your email and how you can use typography to improve accessibility in your emails.

Why are fonts important in emails?

Fonts can spice up your email campaign. You can use different fonts to:

  • Show off your creative side. Be playful with fonts to help your email team create impactful content to capture your subscriber’s attention.

  • Stand out from the crowd. An inbox is a crowded place. Keep your user’s attention once they open your emails with strategic use of creative fonts.

  • Develop a strong visual identity without using images. You can use images to develop a strong visual brand identity, but images usually have their own email client support and rendering issues. Use email-safe fonts to build your own visual brand or product identity without resorting to images.

What are email-safe fonts?

Fonts are great for jazzing up a boring email, but you’ll probably encounter support issues if you use just any font. Several fonts come pre-installed on almost every device. This means they have broad support across email clients, desktop and mobile devices, and operating systems (OS). These default fonts are “email-safe” or “web-safe” because they’re pulled from your user’s local directory, and there’s a good chance that email-safe fonts will display.

The only caveat is there’s a shortlist of web-safe fonts, and these fonts can be a bit boring if you’re trying to make your email design stand out from the crowd. Here’s a list of some email-safe fonts:

  • Helvetica

  • Verdana

  • Sans Serif

  • Georgia

  • Times New Roman

  • Arial 

  • American Typewriter

If you want to expand your font base further, consider using web fonts like Google Fonts that are hosted on a server.

What’s the difference between serif and sans-serif?

As you probably know, a font is a typeface that the email client uses to display the text. There are two types of fonts: Serif and Sans-serif.

Here are some serif fonts with a sample sentence to give a visual example of the font:

Examples of the fonts Times New Roman and Georgia

They have little embellishments (serif) at the end of each character. These aid our eye movement from letter to letter. From an accessibility point of view, serif fonts can tire the eyes out when used in large paragraphs in an email or web page.

Here are some sans-serif fonts with a sample sentence to give a visual example of the font:

Examples of the fonts Arial, Verdana, and Open Sans

In these fonts, each character in a word is separated from another. When it comes to email design, sans-serif characters are easily distinguishable on a screen and don’t tire the eyes as much as a serif font.

How do I choose a font for my email?

There’s no such thing as a “best font” for your email. But now that we know what email-safe fonts are and why fonts are important for your emails, here are some things to consider when choosing a font for your message:

  • Readability

  • Legibility

  • Brand consistency

Let’s go over each of these in detail below.

Why is readability important?

The font you choose needs to be both readable and legible. Readability ensures that you can quickly identify the words when you scan through the text. Remember, your reader probably spends 10 seconds skimming over your email. Make it easier for them to pick out keywords and understand your message.

Why is legibility important?

Legibility ensures that identical-looking characters such ‘1’ (one), ‘l’ (el), and ‘I’ (eye) are easily distinguishable. In the example below, each character is distinguishable and cannot be confused with the other.

Example of font with characters that are distinguishable from one another

Whether an email-safe font is readable and legible depends on the font and font family.

How can I maintain brand consistency with fonts?

It’s important to think about your product’s visual identity and messaging when picking out your fonts. What will go best with your transactional and marketing emails, and which are web safe? Arial, Tahoma, and Verdana are all great sans-serif, web-safe, and email-safe fonts. They’ll be readable in the most clunky and unsupportive email clients.

Should you feel like a serif font is more genuine to your brand, consider using Times New Roman, Georgia, and Courier New. Most – if not all – email clients should display these fonts with no problem.

How can I improve accessibility with typography?

Contrary to popular belief, creating accessible emails doesn’t always mean reworking your HTML email template from the ground up. By tweaking different email design aspects like the color contrast, typography, or call to action (CTA) placement, your emails can become more accessible to a larger audience.

Easy fixes mean less of a headache for you and better reading for your audience. Plus, typography in emails isn’t just restricted to the fonts you choose in your email but also extends to font-styling, formatting, and words per line.

How can I use emphasis to make my email easier to read?

Make it easier for your subscribers to read your emails. Use stylistic emphasis like bolding, italics, or underlining to highlight keywords. You can even highlight them. This way, your subscriber can skim through the email copy and still get all the necessary information.

How can I use line spacing and words per line to improve accessibility?

If your paragraph has closely placed lines, it becomes difficult to jump to the next line when you reach the end of the current line. Always maintain a line spacing of 1.5 times the font size for better accessibility.

The number of words you cram in a single line can make the line length long enough to tire your eyes before you return to the start of the next line. Don’t have more than 75 characters in a single line to improve the reading experience. This added measure ensures better user interpretation and engagement with your content.

How can I use text formatting to improve my emails?

Example of text types in an email

Use text formatting to improve your emails. Separate different sections of your email copy through proper formatting. Headers need to be at least 22 pixels to separate them from the 16 pixels of the email copy. Sub-headings can be 20 pixels to better distinguish from the header but still stand out from the paragraph text.

How does font color affect accessibility?

Although this isn’t particularly part of typography, a dark font over a white background is readable from an arm’s length minimum. This means that you don’t have to stick to a black font; you can be a little flexible with color. If you have a darker color in your design guidelines, feel free to use that instead.

Wrapping up

Creating accessible emails helps you reach out to your subscribers who may be experiencing temporal, situational, or permanent disability while creating a strong user experience for the rest of your subscribers. Picking a reliable email-safe font means your email layouts are less likely to break and become an unreadable mess.

Want to learn more about developing more accessible emails? Check out the Email on Acid blog for all the latest email development news and trends, or subscribe to the Mailgun newsletter to learn how email can power your app or product!

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