What's Body Copy in Publishing?

Effective body text makes or breaks a publication

Ad For 'Neostyle Duplicating Device'
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. It is smaller than headlines, subheads, and pull-quotes. Legibility is the primary requirement when you select fonts for body copy. The exact size depends on both the typeface and the known preferences and expectations of your audience. 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 requiring emphasis. Many fonts are suitable for body copy.

  • 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 the 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 do just as good a job with body copy. Some of them are:

  • Baskerville
  • Avenir
  • Sabon
  • Garamond
  • Palatino
  • Hoefler Text
  • Caslon
  • 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.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "What's Body Copy in Publishing?" ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, thoughtco.com/body-copy-in-typography-1078253. Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, December 6). What's Body Copy in Publishing? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/body-copy-in-typography-1078253 Bear, Jacci Howard. "What's Body Copy in Publishing?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/body-copy-in-typography-1078253 (accessed May 29, 2023).