Whether you are writing a college paper or an article for publication in a journal, the appearance of your manuscript can leave a positive or negative impression on its reader. Even if your paper is well-written and has good ideas and solid research, readers might think less of your writing if its format or font makes reading difficult. To be certain your work looks professional, follow American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines on using recommended fonts and font sizes.

Preferred Fonts

The APA suggests that writers use a 12-point Times New Roman font for manuscripts. This is a recommendation and not a requirement. There may be cases in which you might use a different font. If this is a college paper, for example, check with your professor about what is acceptable. If you are submitting an article for publication, the journal will have its own formatting and font requirements that you will need to follow.

Other Acceptable Fonts

If you want to use a font other than Times New Roman, the APA recommends that you use a serif font for text. Serif fonts are fonts that have small strokes or embellishments at the ends of the main parts of each letter. Serif fonts improve readability and are easier on the eyes than sans serif fonts (fonts without these embellishments). Serif fonts are fonts such as Courier, Georgia, Century and Baskerville.


Use a sans serif font in figures. Sans serif fonts offer a cleaner, more streamlined look. Sans serif fonts are fonts such as Arial, Helvetica and Futura. You may use 8- to 14-point sans serif fonts to label the text in a figure. If you create a graph, use the same font type and size for the graph legend as you do for the rest of the graph.

Other Formatting Considerations

Do not use compressed fonts or reduce the space between letters to make the text seem narrower. If you are creating an equation, use the special character function of your word processor to create the characters needed for your equation.