Body Copy

Body Copy Is the Core of the Publication or Website You Are Reading

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Copy text is the 'core' of an article or advertisement. Jay Paull / Getty Images

Copy is the written text of an ad, brochure, book, newspaper or web page. It's all the words. The main text found in publications we read—body copy—is the text of the stories and articles. Body copy does not include the headlines, subheads, captions or pull-quotes that appear with an article.

Body copy is usually set in a relatively small size—somewhere between 9 and 14 points in most fonts. It is smaller than headlines, subheads and pull-quotes.

Legibility is the primary requirement when you are selecting fonts for body copy. The exact size depends on both the typeface and the known preferences and expectations of your audience. Ask yourself if your father could read your body copy easily. If not, use a larger body copy size. If you have to squint to read it, you haven't chosen the right size.

Selecting Fonts for Body Copy

The font you use for the body copy in your print or web project should be unobtrusive. Save the show-off fonts for headlines and other elements you want to emphasize. Many fonts are suitable for body copy. When making your choice, keep a few guidelines in mind.

  • Use a font that is easy to read at a size of 14 points. If it isn't easy to read at that size, don't use it for body copy. You can use it elsewhere in larger elements.
  • Much of the body copy we read is in paragraph form. Set a section of type in paragraph form using the same line length and spacing you'll use in your publication. Does your eye travel smoothly over the font you've chosen? If not, choose another.
  • Choose a serif or sans serif font. Conventional wisdom says serif fonts are easier to read in print and sans serif fonts are easier to read on the web. Serif fonts are considered traditional while san serif fonts are modern. Use your own judgment, but stay away from script or display fonts for body copy.
  • Select a font family rather than a single typeface. That way, if you need to bold or italicize something in the body copy, the type all works well together. 

Fonts Suitable for Body Copy

In print, Times New Roman has been the go-to font for body copy for years. It meets the readability requirement and doesn't bring attention to itself. However,  there are many other fonts that can just a good a job with body copy. Some of them are:

  • Baskerville
  • Avenir
  • Sabon
  • Garamond
  • Palatino
  • Hoefler Text
  • Caslon
  • Futura
  • Georgia
  • Book Antiqua
  • Arial
  • Verdana

For a designer, choosing from the hundreds (or thousands) of possible fonts is all about making a project look good without sacrificing legibility. Feel free to experiment, but all the fonts listed here are tried-and-true winners in the body copy arena.