Consider this use case: I have to give a speech, and I cannot give it extemporaneously (too long, too little time to prepare), so I have to use a manuscript. I would expect the typographical requirements for a speech manuscript are different than for, say, a newspaper article: It has to be very readable even from a slightly larger than usual distance (it may be on a lectern), it must be easy to find where are you where after saying a few words or sentenced without reading them, abut it should also not require more pages than necessary.

So what fonts, what spacing, what justification should I use? Are there proven standards for that? What do professionals (e.g. speech writers for politicians) do?

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    This is way too broad if a question. The answer is "make it bigger" for the most part.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:50
  • If any of the answers below is satisfactory, please tick the "accepted answer" tickmark next to it. Good for you, me, us.
    – benteh
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:13
  • Thanks, I know how stack exchange works. I was hoping for an answer that has a reference to some published recommendations or documented best practice, but now that the question is on hold, I guess I’ll just tick off the most convincing answer. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:54
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    tex.stackexchange.com/questions/118049/… has some ideas.
    – Thérèse
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 17:28

3 Answers 3


Most politicians on camera are probably using teleprompters. Teleprompters don't use the more impressive typography. They are almost always white on black, with a big sans-serif font. Sometimes they are all caps-sometimes not. If the speech is printed, it was probably done by a speech writer or assistant, with little consideration given to typography at all (after all, no one but the speaker will even see it).

The correct answer is really going to be based on what you find easiest to read and follow. Since you are printing this on paper, consider:

  1. Using a sans-serif font with a large X-height and open apertures. (Good old Helvetica/Arial meets these requirements, is familiar, and is not distracting)
  2. Use a generous leading so you don't get lost when shifting to the next line
  3. Create visual anchors for places you know you are going to start/stop. If you anticipate questions or are going to involve the audience at all, you want some way to quickly find your spot, such as using a bold face for the first few words.
  4. Consider a blank space between paragraphs--when you finish talking about a general concept, that's a natural time to pause and gauge the audience. The extra space is ugly, but creates very clear blocks of text.
  5. Practice! Listening to someone read off a piece of paper is just as boring for the audience as it is for you.
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    +1 for 'large X-height'. Also chose a font where the characters (one, upper case I, lower case L) can easily be distinguished. I recomment NOT using all-caps, as words are optically better recognizable they way you see them the most (which I assume is not in caps). Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 14:23
  • A large x-height can definitely help with small type, but may not offer a whole lot of benefit with larger type.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:53
  • Why sans serif for a large body of text, on paper, printed big enough that serifs aren't going to clutter the page? Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:29
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    Sans-serif is general practice for large text, not a hard rule. A quick drive down most highways, the overwhelming majority of billboards will be sans-serif, which suggests there's something to this (or at the very least, it's what we are used to seeing at large sizes, which also affects legibility). Regardless, I would actually say though that at a larger size, serifs would clutter a body more anyway. There's a spot around 18-20pt or so where many serifs start to look awkward, but its not yet big enough to use a display variant. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:48

It's all about improving your delivery.

  • Increasing your leading or line-height will help your eye track back to the next line.
  • Increasing the font size will help you see the text at arm's length.
  • Decreasing the kerning will make the text more legible at larger font sizes.
  • A serif font (like Times) is allegedly more legible in print, though this may or may not be the case. I have found this to be true, but this is subjective.

If you're reading off paper, a serif typeface is preferable. This helps your eye move from one character into the next, especially when you have black text on a white background. For on-screen cases, it's the opposite, especially when reading white text on a black background. In those cases, use sans-serif.

Keep your paragraphs short, maybe even a single sentence, with generous spacing between lines. It should be formatted more like a movie script than a printed article. Any quotations or diagrams should have dramatically different formatting, to break up the text and help you instantly re-find your place when looking up to the audience or other visual aide on stage.

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    The serif theory is just that--a theory. Not something shown to be true with research, though.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:51
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    A serif font is arguably a bad choice here because the reader will be shifting between the page and the audience frequently. Serifs (in general) promote readibility for long blocks of text like a book; sans-serif fonts promote legibility, or being able to quickly distinguish letter forms, because serifs cause noise (again, in general). This is why you more commonly see sans-serif fonts in signs, billboards, etc. This are obviously not hard rules and a book could probably be written on the topic. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:45
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    @scribblemacher those are common assumptions, but not something actually definitively proven via research.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 20:01

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