Times New Roman has been outlawed by the Home Office due to it being harder for visually impaired people or those who have difficulty reading to decipher, reports say.

It comes days after US secretary of state Antony Blinken hit headlines for telling staff they should ditch the font in favour of adopting “Calibri as the standard,” according to a cable obtained by The Washington Post.

But a report in The Telegraph [21st January 2023] suggests the UK government department took the decision far in advance of Mr Blinken, advising its civil servants to avoid Times New Roman a year ago.

A Home Office website reportedly says that the department’s own design system and that used by the main GOV.UK site “both use fonts chosen for clarity and readability”.

It continues: “In emails, documents, or third-party products that allow limited customisation, choose a font that is open and clear".

“Because all users have different needs, there’s no such thing as a fully ‘accessible’ font, but usually it’s better to choose a sans-serif font (such as Arial) over a serif font (such as Times New Roman).”

The website also advises civil servants not to use italics “as this text can be difficult for dyslexic users to read” and adds that capitalisation “should be used sparingly for similar reasons”.

A Home Office spokesman said the page was first published in February 2022.

The Supreme Court roiled the legal community when it did away with the font for its judgements in 2021 – and similarly opted for Calibri as the typeface of choice. The court had used Times New Roman since it succeeded the judicial committee of the House of Lords in 2009.

Times New Roman is a serif font, meaning it has extra strokes on the ends of the larger lines that make up the letters – sometimes referred to as “wings” or “feet.”

Sans serif fonts, like Calibri, do not have these flourishes, which helps reduce visual recognition issues.

Times New Roman, now a staple of word processors around the world, was invented by typographer Stanley Morison for The Times newspaper in 1932.

However, multiple studies show serifed fonts are easier to read - although we don't know why.

"Serifed fonts are widely used for body text because they are considered easier to read than sans-serif fonts in print". Colin Wheildon, who conducted scientific studies from 1982 to 1990, found that sans serif fonts created various difficulties for readers that impaired their comprehension.

According to Kathleen Tinkel, studies suggest that "most sans serif typefaces may be slightly less legible than most serif faces".

Pick up your nearest paperback novel. Is the font serif or sans-serif?

Choosing the right font (and letter spacing) is paramount in communication. Take a look at these font fails for example...