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Difference between readability and legibility

‘A good text should be readable and legible.’ You must have come across these words a lot. Readability and legibility are associated with typography. They both are related to how easy it is to read and understand text on a particular platform. Examples of a platform could be an app (learn to design an app), book, hoarding, etc.

Both the terms are often used interchangeably. But in design and typography, both hold specific meaning. The intention is similar, but both are based on different factors. Let’s learn the difference in this article.


Readability is being able to read a text easily. It is determined by the arrangement of text and choice of words. Good readability depends upon a lot of factors which may or may not be in our control. Please find the factors below.

Wrongly selecting just one or two values can highly affect the readability
Wrongly selecting just one or two values can highly affect the readability

Factors affecting readability

Typographic factors

Typographic factors are the decisions which we take while arranging or formatting a text. We almost always need to perform typographic changes to a text according to the platform on which it will be displayed. Few examples of typographic factors are-

  • Text size
  • Letter spacing
  • Line height
  • Leading/ Line spacing
  • Line length

Language factors

Language factors deal with choosing the right words and language, taking care of grammar and sentence formation, etc. If you are writing in French but the content is for Germans, is anyone going to read it? No. The examples of language factors for readability are-

  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Language
  • Sentence formation

Physical factors

Physical factors are the ones which are usually out of our control. If you have written and formatted a text for phone but the reader is reading it from a great distance then we can’t actually do anything about it. Similarly, there are other physical factors affecting the readability like-

  • Viewing distance
  • Viewing angle
  • Lighting


Legibility is the ease of being able to recognise individual characters in a text. What does that mean? Suppose you have a text written in very decorative typeface. Even though it looks good, you are unable to distinguish the alphabets, symbols and numbers. So ultimately, you are unable to read it properly because of the design of typeface. This means the text has less legibility.

Both the texts are written in 25 pts but still have a huge difference in visual clarity
Both the texts are written in 25 pts but still have a huge difference in visual clarity

Legibility is the sub part of readability. The design of typeface determines its legibility. If a text written in a certain typeface can be easily understood without applying any formatting to it, then it is said to be legible. If the typeface is too decorative and not easy to understand, then it is said to be less legible. Overall, we need to choose a typeface which can give visual clarity to our text.

Now, if this is the case, then why do we even have decorative typefaces? This really depends upon your content. A fancy typeface might look good for a heading or a phrase but not for a paragraph. You can experiment with the typefaces and find which suits your content the most.

Factors affecting legibility

Design factors

Legibility is only affected by the design of the typeface which is in hands of the designer who is designing that typeface. The following factors come into play while designing a typeface-

  • X-height
  • Counter size
  • Style of typeface
  • Serif or sans serif
  • Type weight


Even if a typeface is legible but the formatting and language is wrong, the readability of text will be affected. And if we take all the right measures for readability but choose a less legible typeface for our platform, again it will be difficult to read.

No typeface is good or bad. It just depends upon the need of audience, content and the platform. We need to experiment with the typefaces and formatting so that we can improve the readability and legibility of our content.

I hope you understood the difference between readability and legibility. If you liked the article, don’t forget to leave your comment below. You can also connect with us on social media. Stay tuned for more interesting articles.

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