On 2020 I published “ADHD and the Use of Sans Fonts: Do They Make a Real Impact on the Legibility,” and since it has become one of the most read posts, I believe that many hyper neurodivergents are indeed wondering which is the best font for ADHD.
I also believe that article may be too technical; so, here’s an ADHD friendly version of it, plus a few thoughts I’ve been reflecting on and a cool note on a font for dyslexics.
Please note: This discussion is about trying to read something we are interested in, but we just can’t.
For a deep understanding, check out first the original post.
What are the Styles of Fonts?
For the purpose of this discussion, I focused on two: the “Serif” fonts (which have curly ends) and the “Sans” Fonts (which don’t have those ends)
Is There a Best Font for ADHD?
To this date, there is no research stating whether there is an ADHD friendly font, or if the use of certain fonts could help neurodivergents at all.
- I made my case saying that “Sans fonts” are most ADHD friendly, based on: my experience and Dr. K’s; an article published by Mc. Knight (2010).
- I recently found out there’s a new font for dyslexics, (who are neurodivergents too)
- The fact that so many people google “ADHD fonts” and end up here, well, I believe it says a lot.
Why “Sans” is the Best Font Style for ADHD?
Previously, I mentioned a subjective reason: for me (and Dr. K, who is also ADHD), sans fonts are clearer. Now I’d like to explain why.
Is This Impulsivity?
Basically, a copy written “serif” (such as Times New Roman), seems like a bunch of words my brain cannot distinguish:
- a paragraph feels like a blend of words, so
- keywords don’t pop up at plain sight, hence
- I get a rush to continue to the next paragraph.
A copy that is not written with Sans fonts, even when I am interested in it, don’t help me to read word by word; I get eager to continue reading and I end up reading nothing.
Is This Distractibility?
And here’s another funny thing that may seem silly: as a blogger and web designer, I love serif fonts. As a writer, they make me feel I am writing… So here’s what happens:
Sometimes when I’m reading the New Yorker’s website, which has the most beautiful serif font, I start wondering if “maybe now I could use it.” I spend a considerable amount of time searching for a free look-alike version, only to try it and think, “You’ve procrastinated, again.” 🤦🏻♀️
How to Choose an ADHD Friendly Font? Procrastination Alert
When searching for a font for ADHD, we may end up procrastinating looking for the prettiest, the most used and recommended. Been there; done that.
“Reading is your goal.” Bear this in mind.
A humble advice?
- I’d strongly suggest you choose “Open Sans” first.(1)
- Stick to it for at least a few days
- If you’re still struggling, try another one.
Also bear in mind that the font size and the line spacing (or height in websites) matters.
In Microsoft Word, I use a size of 12 points, with a multiple line spacing at 1.7 points (1.5 is not enough and it makes a huge difference for me) I also write with the zoom at 170% to avoid using my glasses 🤷🏻♀️
Is There Something Written about the Use of Sans Fonts for ADHD?
I’ve only found the guidelines to design books for children.
As I mentioned before, “When we’re children, we begin learning to write with block letters; which is no brainer: we learn the letters of the alphabet one by one, and then we begin to put them next to each other to create a word.”
One letter at a time is what my ADHD brain needs, and I realized about it when I was in Law School (undiagnosed, by the way)
Recently it surprised me to have found out that there are other neurodivergents who need exactly the same: those who are dyslexics.
Dyslexic Friendly Fonts and Its Relationship with ADHD Friendly Fonts
For dyslexics, words “are” the issue. There has been a lot of progress from the digital world to help them. (2) One of the things that stroke me the most, was the development of a font designed specially for their needs.
As you can see in the image, “Open Dyslexic” (3) has its letters:
- wider (the x-axis is increased)
- which consequently increases the space between the letters
- and they have more ink at the bottom so that dyslexics don’t flip letters such us “b, p”.
One letter a time…
How to Change the Font When We Cannot Change Them?
If you’re reading from a website or a book written with Serif fonts and it’s giving you a headache, I have a couple of solutions (4):
- Reading from a website: Safari, for instance, comes with the option to choose to “Reader View;” by doing so, we get a clear text written in a Sans font.
- Reading from a book: I scan it, export it as a PDF file and use Adobe Acrobat Pro to change the font. Does it take forever? At first it does; but I need to read.
Wrapping It Up
Since we don’t have a research on the topic yet, give sans fonts a try.
“Open Sans” by Google is free to download and install on your machine; you might also want to try “Roboto” which is thinner.
If this works for you, please help me, help us spread the word!
(1) Check out the ToolKit / How to Install Google’s Sans Fonts
(2) In 2008 Dutch designer Christian Boer (who is dyslexic himself) designed the font “Dyslexie”. Then he presented it at a TED Talk in 2011.
(3) The font “Open Dyslexic” was designed by Abelardo González and released as open source, which means you can download it for free.
(4) Check out the toolkit for more info on “Reader View” on different browsers