Thanks for a thoughtful article. I personally find that typography is an art form, and that both serif and sans serif fonts can be poorly set or well set.
A font like Helvetica in the hands of a good typographer can, not only be eminently legible, but can be quite beautiful. By the same token serif fonts may also be beautifully set. One of my favorite serif fonts is Zapf Elliptical, which in good hands, can also be a delight to the eye.
With the advent of computer-based printing, everyone fancies themselves an expert. Unfortunately just selecting fonts and their sizes is not typography. Letterspacing (kerning) and leading can change the whole look and feel of a block of text.
A new magazine called CODEX (especially for typomaniacs) may be found at http:// and some very interesting work on typography can be found at http:// .
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Complaints about controls for light levels and the quality of the paper documents were printed on strike me as minor irrelevancies, given that very few people have even bothered to try repeating these tests for comprehension in the 3 decades since the original research. One might have expected that that would be more relevant than fiddling with light levels.
Are we now expected to dismiss all paper-based university examination results for example, on the grounds that light levels may have varied in different examination rooms (as I recall, they did in my case) ? Give me strength!
If opponents of the Wheildon hypothesis want to challenge it, why have they not attempted to replicate the tests of comprehension (first on paper, then on screen)?
It may well be that the critics are correct. But they impress me not one whit if they continue to insist on testing peripheral components of the comprehension environment which they claim are important, while failing to show their connection to the ultimate result:
Does the reader understand the text in a reasonably normal reading environment ?