With design and publishing tools in nearly everyone’s hands, the world has been overrun by highly questionable typography choices—several of which we see (and cringe at) over and over.

Why are these fonts the worst? Two big reasons: They’re completely overused and/or they show a total lack of imagination. Here, we present the best (and free!) substitutions for the five most boring fonts.

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We know this might be shocking. How could we put this classic font on our list? Of course, we do appreciate its good design. It was created by famed typographer Stanley Morison after he complained to the British newspaper, The Times, about their poor typography. But ever since Windows 3.1, when Microsoft made Times New Roman its default font, it has become nearly inescapable.

If you use this font, it says you didn’t bother to actually choose one. In this case, familiarity does breed contempt. (Even The Times itself has ditched the font.)

Times New Roman Quote

The Fix: To make a more deliberate choice (instead of just another Times variation), try a different serif font like:

Bembo Garamond

 

 

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As its name suggests, Brush Script looks like it was created with an exuberant hand and bold brushstrokes—just like handwriting!

The font has been used plenty since its creation by Robert E. Smith in 1942, lending its distinctive swoopy style to many a sign from the 1950s. But again, this font has been used and abused.

The-Jerry-Springer-Show

Brush Script made a famous appearance in the original logo for The Jerry Springer Show.

The Fix: If the task at hand requires something that looks similar to Brush Script, go for something far less worn and cliche like:

Pacifico Damion Snickles

 

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It’s heavy on the curl, light on the class. You’ve probably been assaulted by this overly whimsical font trying to look playful and sophisticated on any number of “designs,” from beauty salon ads to self-published book covers. Although Curlz looks decidedly dated (designed in 1995 by Carl Crossgrove and Steve Matteson), it has somehow been kept alive. Unless you’re announcing a baby shower or opening a candy store, avoid this one at all costs.

The Fix: Almost anything else. If something curly is a must, try a more elegant font like:

Sofia

 

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Once you’ve seen it, it’s everywhere you look. Papyrus was originally designed to mimic 2,000-year-old handwriting. Now, however, this font is used in almost any situation where people want their design to look old and rustic.

You’ve seen it everywhere from your can of AriZona Green Tea and coffee shop signs to Asian fusion restaurants and millions of church flyers. Unless you’re under the age of 13 and writing a report on the pyramids, this is a font to steer clear of. Even Chris Costello says it’s overused—and he designed it.

The Fix: If you still need that “ancient” look, try:

Archeologicaps Mothproof script

 

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You knew this was coming—the world’s most hated font. From your mom’s forwarded emails, to interoffice memos, to the official Vatican e-book celebrating the retiring Pope, the font is officially a punchline. Need we say more?

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Even the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle was overshadowed by a presentation in Comic Sans.

The Fix: We know you’re too smart to use Comic Sans in anything but a comic bubble, but if you are in need of a comic-themed font, try:

Wondercomic Action Man HVD Comic Serif

5 Tips for Font Design

No matter what font you choose, make sure to follow best practices.

1) Don’t use more than 3 fonts in a layout.

2) Don’t used condensed type for body text.

3) Use serif and sans serif within the same family.

4) Make sure your font size is no smaller than 12 point for web.

5) Adjust font for readability (leading, kerning and tracking)—don’t always rely on the default.

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