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With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

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Kicking Out Comic Sans

Your office might welcome a new open source font and the browser tools that go with it - and it makes life easier for dyslexics.

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We know your secret, and you really don't need to be ashamed. We have seen the notices around the office, asking people to only take the folders they need, to give to your "fun run" and a thousand other informative statements. They are all in that font called "Comic Sans". It's the only one you ever want to use, and we think we know why.

You're using it because you think it looks cute and informal, but we got over the joke when Microsoft first released it in 1995. We know it was a leftover from the development of Microsoft Bob, and every time we see your notices we think of that. If you weren't related to Mordac we would probably have printed out the Ban Comic Sans Manifesto by now and marched to your office with whatever counts as pitchforks around here.

There's only one valid excuse, and that's making notices and text readable for dyslexics. According to some authorities, using a clear font that incorporates asymmetries in the letter designs helps people with dyslexia keep track of the text they are reading and understand more clearly. 

But if that's your excuse for using Comic Sans - and you'd actually have our support if it was - there's a new, open source solution available. Take a look at Open Dyslexic, an open source font that's specially designed to make text extra readable for people with dyslexia. In particular, it has heavier weighting at the bottom of letters to make the baseline of the text easier to spot. 

Dys-font-sample.png
(Font sample courtesy of dyslexicfonts.com)

It's also quirky, chunky and appealing for those notices you keep posting, without looking inappropriately humourous. Why don't you give it a try? There are no licensing issues to worry about, so everyone can use it without permission or audit. It would also make a useful alternate font for some of the other users around the office, you know - there's a Chrome extension that makes it available, you offer to help install it.

There's no shame in being dyslexic - some of the smartest people are. But there is persistent shame in using Comic Sans. Kick the habit, for everyone's sake.


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