Featured image for the article about Comic Sans being good or bad for dyslexia.

Is “Com­ic Sans good for dyslex­ia” a myth?

Find out whether Com­ic Sans is as good for peo­ple with dyslex­ia as some say it is.

Once again, I’ve stum­bled upon A quick guide to read­able game text by gameindustry.biz. Once again, some­one cred­it­ed it as a great arti­cle on mak­ing read­able text in games. More­over, “Com­ic Sans good for dyslex­ia” is one of the high­lights. The arti­cle is basi­cal­ly an excerpt from Karen Stevens’ GDC talk Acces­si­bil­i­ty Best Prac­tices: In-Game Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but for some rea­son, it gets cit­ed way more than the orig­i­nal video.

I don’t have any­thing against Karen Stevens — for­mer EA’s Direc­tor of Acces­si­bil­i­ty — and I think it’s great that she’s “spread­ing the word” and work­ing towards mak­ing games more acces­si­ble to a broad­er cir­cle of people. 

But some of her state­ments caught my eye. Specif­i­cal­ly, the one about Com­ic Sans being great for peo­ple with dyslex­ia. And she gave that one with­out any back­ground or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, just as a self-evi­dent fact. But is that so? Let’s get into it.

Here’s the exact quote that I’m gonna be look­ing at:

Com­ic Sans tends to get a bad rep­u­ta­tion but real­ly it’s a very, very good font. Par­tic­u­lar­ly for dyslex­ia. Those with dyslex­ia have trou­ble dis­tin­guish­ing dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and the way Com­ic Sans is is much eas­i­er for them — more so than most actu­al fonts made for dyslexia.

Caren Stevens, EA Direc­tor of Accessibility

There are not one but two state­ments here:

  • Com­ic Sans being great for peo­ple with dyslexia.
  • It’s much bet­ter for this pur­pose than most(!) of the fonts explic­it­ly made for this. 

Sounds a lit­tle bit too much, does­n’t it?

So is Com­ic Sans good for dyslex­ia or what?

I’m no expert in dyslex­ia, but (with all due respect) nei­ther is Caren. So I turned to actu­al experts on the mat­ter (SCIENCE!) and looked around for facts. The thing is… nobody did any seri­ous research on the top­ic, which pro­fes­sor Mag­gie Snowl­ing confirms:

I don’t know of any seri­ous work on this issue.

Pro­fes­sor Mag­gie Snowl­ing, pres­i­dent of St John’s Col­lege at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford

This is also what John Stein, a renowned dyslex­ia researcher, says. Accord­ing to him, big­ger and wider let­ters and increased spac­ing with­in and between words help peo­ple with dyslex­ia. But that’s not even that big of a help.

Sans serif, mono­spaced and Roman sans serif are prob­a­bly best for dyslex­i­cs. […] But they’re all small effects.

Pro­fes­sor John Stein, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of phys­i­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford, and a dyslex­ia researcher of glob­al renown

Pro­fes­sor Matt Schneps of Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty also makes the same point — Com­ic Sans has earned its dyslex­ia-friend­ly rep­u­ta­tion only because of its slight­ly increased let­ter spac­ing. The style or shape of the let­ters has noth­ing to do with it. Besides, this char­ac­ter­is­tic is not unique to Com­ic Sans, and there are plen­ty of such fonts.

Ulti­mate­ly, it all comes down to the idea that Com­ic Sans may be slight­ly eas­i­er to read for dyslex­ic peo­ple due to some of its char­ac­ter­is­tics. But it’s yet to be proved that it has any sub­stan­tial effect.

So the next time some­one says or writes, “COMIC SANS IS AWESOME FOR DYSLEXIA,” tell them that it’s not entire­ly true and there’s no sci­en­tif­ic research sup­port­ing that.