Times New Roman typeface is ableist, civil servants told

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made global headlines when he sent a cable to his diplomats instructing them to stop using Times New Roman - Kamil Krzaczynski /Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made global headlines when he sent a cable to his diplomats instructing them to stop using Times New Roman – Kamil Krzaczynski /Getty Images

Home Office civil servants have been told to stop using Times New Roman because it is harder for readers who are visually impaired or have difficulty reading.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made global headlines when he sent a cable to his diplomats instructing them to stop using the font.

However, The Telegraph can reveal that the UK Home Office got there well before the US’s top diplomat, advising its civil servants to avoid Times New Roman a year ago.

A Home Office website 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 goes on: “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).”

Officials told not to use italics

The website also tells officials 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 had been published on Feb 1 last year.

It is not the first UK public body to turn its back on Times New Roman. In 2021, the Supreme Court provoked rumblings in the legal community when it ditched the typeface for its judgments in favour of Calibri.

The court had used the font since it succeeded the judicial committee of the House of Lords in 2009.

Debate has raged for years over whether typefaces that use serifs – those with decorative “wings” and “feet” on characters – are superior to those without them.

While some people argue that sans-serif fonts are more readable on computer screens, others believe that the added strokes of serif fonts can help guide readers and reduce confusion.

‘The Times (New Roman) are a-Changin’

The US State Department has used Times New Roman as its standard typeface since 2004.

However, last week The Washington Post obtained a cable sent by Mr Blinken telling staff that from Feb 6 they should “adopt Calibri as the standard font for all requested papers”.

The subject line for the cable read: “The Times (New Roman) are a-Changin”.

Mr Blinken said the shift to sans serif would make it easier for people with disabilities who use certain assistive technologies to read communications, and that the change had been recommended by his office of diversity and inclusion.

However, some diplomats have objected to the move, with The Washington Post reporting that one had branded it “sacrilege”.

Another official said that they were “anticipating an internal revolt”.

Times New Roman was invented by British typographer Stanley Morison for The Times newspaper in 1932.

Although it was dropped by the paper in 1972, it went on to become a staple of word processors around the world.

Published by anthonyhayble

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