Readability Vs. Legibility — Know the Difference

The distinction between readability and legibility is often confusing. These…

The distinction between readability and legibility is often confusing. These two concepts in typography are commonly mixed up due to their similar meanings. However, it’s important to understand what distinguishes readability from legibility.

This article will demystify these two concepts and the best way to decide the terminology for a particular task.

Readability or Legibility: Which One to Focus On?

“Readability” is more about a text’s meaning, and “legibility” is more about the letters on the page.

The decision of whether to use legibility or readability in your writing depends on your audience. For example, a marketing blog is likely to emphasize readability. This is because the intent of the blog is for people to understand the meaning of the ideas being shared.

However, a website arguing against a political candidate is usually more concerned with legibility. It would use it as an advantage to have a good representation of the rhetorical points in their text.

A person reading a book on a brown and beige textile
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

What Distinguishes Readability From Legibility?

Readability and legibility are the two terms in typography that explains the components of writing. Both terms relate to the ease and clarity of texts, but they are two separate concepts. Designers should be familiar with these terms because they are part of the language used to discuss typefaces, typesetting, and design.

What Is Readability?

Readability relates to the intended meaning of the text. It relates to how challenging it is to understand the meaning that a paragraph or article is trying to express.

Grammar, word choice, and appropriateness are all factors that affect how readable writing is. Readability also refers to the typesetting or arrangement of the font. Complicated sentence structures and complex terminologies can reduce the readability of a document.

Some of the common factors that affect the readability of a text:

Type size: It is often referred to as “point size.” The larger the type size is, the easier it is to read. Smaller type sizes can be challenging to read, especially for small children and seniors. Therefore, you should choose the text size considering your target audience.

Type case: Though the type style may be the same, the difference in the text type case can make a document hard to read. Stick to upper- and lowercase letters when readability is your priority because these help people recognize characters.

Line spacing: Spacing is an important factor that helps readers understand text faster. Readability is negatively impacted by tight line spacing. So, ensure to space the text properly, so the character will read appropriately on a line.

What Is Legibility?

Legibility is the visual aesthetics and clarity of any piece of writing. It determines the simplicity or difficulty of reading a text. In other words, legibility pertains to how letters and words look, how the typeface is designed, and how the glyphs are shaped.

The letters of a legible text should be distinct and simple to read. The size of the text, the fonts employed, and the distance between letters and texts are the main elements of legibility. Also, the spacing between paragraphs contributes to better legibility.

Some of the common factors that affect the legibility of a text:

X-height: This is typically the height of the lowercase x for a typeface. It refers to the distance between the baseline and the mean line of lowercase letters. Small fonts with a tall x-height have better legibility.

Character width: As the term suggests, this is the width of the letters. Letters with an average overall width are easier to read than characters with narrow width. Extensive and very compact designs both make it harder to read smaller texts.

Weight: This is the thickness of the typeface. If legibility is your goal, avoid using excessively light or extremely heavy weights. They are not easy on the eyes and are harder to read.


In general, readability is how easily and quickly someone can consume or understand the content. An individual’s readability level can be measured utilizing various factors. Legibility is simply the ability to decipher a piece of text meant to be read. This article is a quick guide to give you an idea of what distinguishes readability from legibility.

Frequently asked questions

How is readability measured?

It is the readability of printed materials that is evaluated by counting the number of words in a sentence and the number for letters or syllables per word (symbol frequency).

What are three factors that affect legibility?

(Lee, 2003) Legibility is determined by factors such as font face, font size, and spacing. Literacy is directly affected by typeface characters as they affect the way readers can sense words and letters.

What is readability in graphic design?

Readability is the arrangement of fonts and words in order to make written content flow in a simple, easy-to-read manner. The legibility is the easy distinction between letters in a typesetting or font.

What affects readability in type?

Type size: Set text aside for easier reading, as smaller its size, making it more challenging to read. Seniors, children, and those with visual impairments are especially susceptible.

Is readable the same as legible?

A legibility indicator measures how easy it is to distinguish one letter from another in a certain typeface. Reading is about the reader – the ease with which a reader can decipher a text, process it, and make sense of it.

What makes legible type?

In many ways, legibility can be determined by characteristics inherent in a typeface.. such as its character shapes, stroke contrast, the size of its counters, serifs, or lack thereof, and weight.

What are the 4 factors that affect the legibility of text?

  • Counters
  • Design traits
  • Singularity or absence thereof.
  • Weight
  • X- Height. The lowercase height is measured in proportion to the caps.
  • Character Width. Typographic designs that have an overall width of ‘average’ are the easiest to read.
  • Stroke Contrast

What has the biggest impact on readability?

Your copy’s readability and legibility are directly affected by your choice of fonts. All the elements in font sizes, widths, colors, and text structures matter. Also, fonts add to the visual element, just like images.

Why legibility become very important in design styles?

The type is designed so it is interesting. You make certain parts of the type stand out to attract attention, helping those parts lead to the full body of the text. More noticeable and interesting features help make type more readable.

How can I improve my legibility text?

  • Sections from chunk text.
  • Use Descriptive Subheadings
  • Visuals can break up text and make comprehension easier.
  • Spend Readers’ Time Not Wasted.
  • Writing at an 8th grade level.
  • Avoid italic, decorative, and decorative fonts.

What do we mean by legibility?

Definition of legible 1 : can be read or deciphered : plain legible handwriting. Thoreau, capable of being discovered or understood – 2 : the pain sweltered in his heart and his face was legible. Here are some examples of legible words and synonyms.

What are readability principles?

Readability is closely related to reading comprehension, retention, reading speed, and persistence. Variables known to cause reading problems are used in readability formulas. While there are many other features of language that they do not measure, the readability formula scores correlate with this score.

What is legibility of text?

It is readability, which describes the ease with which a reader can understand the meaning of a text, while legibility describes how a person can recognize and distinguish between individuals characters and words.

What 3 things should you do to make a design that enhances readability?

  • Organizing content in a clear heading structure.
  • In 10 or 11, it can be read easily in body text, or smaller in tables.
  • Good line spacing, at least 1.2 line spacing with extra spacing above and below.

What is type readability?

Readability relates to how words and blocks of type are arranged on a page. Legibility refers to how a typeface is designed and how well one character can be distinguished.

Readability Vs. Legibility — Know the Difference

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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