Unfortunate kerning…

October 17, 2013

If you choose a font for your website or documentation that’s not from one of the standard/common/well-known font families, you should check the kerning (the spacing between various letters) before making it public, especially the kerning between round and straight letters.

Otherwise, you might get something like this:

kerning I read it as ‘The rapists working…’ at first, then my brain went ‘Whoa!’ and reinterpreted it correctly as ‘Therapists working…’

While this kerning issue may not be a problem with most letters (our brain adjusts quickly to slightly odd spacing), when it creates a new set of words totally unrelated to the context, then there’s an issue. Bottom line: Test your font choices before publication/distribution!


  1. I always assumed this sort of problem was some artifact of OCR process -thanks for explaining the real reason.

  2. Hi Vern

    In some cases it is an artefact from OCR, but I checked the HTML of the page and it was fine — just normal text, styles with a couple of CSS files (which I didn’t look at). So in this instance, the kerning was a result of the font choice and how it displayed in Firefox on my computer.


  3. More… I checked the CSS and the only fonts I could see listed that should affect that section were: font-family:”Helvetica Neue”, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

    I don’t have any Helvetica fonts on my computer, so it should have defaulted to Arial. While it appears to have done so if you look at the unbolded line above, the substituted font doesn’t render as well inside the STRONG tags. Interestingly, the HTML told me that this text was in a table cell too, so perhaps some percentage resizing is going on as well — I didn’t notice it, but as there are no less than five CSS files affecting the display, it’s possible that there are some conflicts or obscure settings occurring.


  4. Hallo Rhonda
    Good call! Another situation that calls for caution is creating a presentation on one computer and then giving the presentation from another computer. You can run into trouble if the second computer doesn’t have the same font installed.

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