If you don't specify any styles for your text, browsers will apply their own default styles. These are called User Agent stylesheets, and may vary from browser to browser. Users can set their own preferences for displaying text too.

If you don't specify a line length, browsers will wrap lines of text at the edge of the screen. So text on the web is responsive by default—it flows to fit the user's viewport.

But just because text fits on a screen doesn't mean it's comfortable to read. Good typography is all about presenting your text in an appropriate way. There's more to typography than choosing suitable fonts to use. You need to consider the user's preferences, the size of the text, line length, and the distance between the lines of text.

Text size

It's difficult to know what size text on the web should be.

If someone is using a small screen, it might be a safe bet that their screen will be fairly close to their eyes—a hand's length away.

But as screens get larger and larger, it's harder to make that connection. A laptop-size screen will probably be fairly near to the viewer, but a widescreen desktop monitor is around the same size as a television screen. People sit an arm's length away from a desktop screen but they sit much further away from a television.

Still, while you can't know for certain how far away someone is from a screen, you can try to use text sizes that will hopefully turn out to be appropriate. Use smaller text sizes for smaller screens and larger text sizes for larger screens.

You can use media queries to change the font-size property as the screen size gets wider.

@media (min-width: 30em) {
  html {
    font-size: 125%;

@media (min-width: 40em) {
  html {
    font-size: 150%;

@media (min-width: 50em) {
  html {
    font-size: 175%;

@media (min-width: 60em) {
  html {
    font-size: 200%;

Scaling text

Switching between fixed text sizes at specific breakpoints is quite jumpy. A more responsive approach is to let the user's device width influence the text size.

The vw unit in CSS stands for “viewport width.” Connecting font sizes to the viewport's width means that the text will grow and shrink in proportion to the browser width. This makes it difficult to predict what the text size will be at any specific width, but you know that the text size will be appropriate for the user's browser width.

It's important that you don't use the vw by itself in a font-size declaration.

html {
  font-size: 2.5vw;

If you do, the user won't be able to resize the text. The text will be resizable if you mix in a relative unit—like em, rem or ch. The CSS calc() function is perfect for this.

html {
  font-size: calc(0.75rem + 1.5vw);

Let the browser do the math. This makes it difficult to predict exactly what the text size will be at any specific width, but you know that the text size will be in the right range. The user's browser takes care of figuring out the exact text size calculations.

But now there's a possibility that the text will get too small on narrow screens and too big on wide screens.

Clamping text

You probably don't want your text to shrink and grow to extremes. You can control where the scaling starts and ends using the CSS clamp() function. This “clamps” the scaling to a specific range.

The clamp() function is like the calc() function but it takes three values. The middle value is the same as what you pass to calc(). The opening value specifies the minimum size, in this case 1rem so as to not go below the user's preferred font size. The closing value specifies the maximum size.

html {
  font-size: clamp(1rem, 0.75rem + 1.5vw, 2rem);

Now the text size shrinks and grows in proportion to the user's screen but the text size will never go below 1rem or above 2rem.

Line length

The web is not print, but we can learn lessons from the world of print and apply them on the web.

In his classic book The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst had this to say on line length (or measure):

Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory line length for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters.

You can't set a line length directly in CSS. There is no line-length property. But you can stop text from getting too wide by limiting how wide the container can be. The max-inline-size property is perfect for this.

Don't set your line-lengths with a fixed unit like px. Users can scale their font size up and down and your line lengths should adjust accordingly. Use a relative unit like rem or ch.

article {
  max-inline-size: 700px;
article {
  max-inline-size: 66ch;

Using ch units for width will cause new lines to wrap at the 66th character at that font size.

Line height

Although there is no line-length property in CSS, there is a line-height property.

Shorter lines of text can have larger line-height values. But if you use large line-height values for long lines of text, it's hard for the reader's eye to move from the end of one line to the start of the next line.

article {
  max-inline-size: 66ch;
  line-height: 1.65;
blockquote {
  max-inline-size: 45ch;
  line-height: 2;

Use unitless values for your line-height declarations. This ensures that the line height is relative to the font-size.

line-height: 24px;
line-height: 1.5;

Combinations and scale

Remember to prioritize hierarchy as you build your user interfaces for better clarity and page flow. A great way to do this is with a typography scale built into your design system.

Web fonts

A typeface is like a voice for your words. For the longest time on the web there were very few font options. System fonts were the only options. But now you can choose a web font that matches the feel of your content.

Use @font-face to tell browsers where to find your web font files. Use woff2 as your web font format. It's well supported and has the best performance gains.

@font-face {
  font-family: Roboto;
  src: url('/fonts/roboto-regular.woff2') format('woff2');
body {
  font-family: Roboto, sans-serif;

But every web font file you add could potentially degrade the user experience as it increases page load time. Remember, design isn't just about how the final pixels look. How fast those pixels get painted is a critical part of the user experience. An experience that feels fast is a good user experience.

Font loading

You can request that browsers start downloading a font file as soon as possible. Add a link element to the head of your document that references your web font file. A rel attribute with a value of preload tells the browser to prioritize that file. An as attribute with a value of font tells the browser what kind of file this is. The type attribute allows you to be even more specific.

<link href="/fonts/roboto-regular.woff2" type="font/woff2" 
  rel="preload" as="font" crossorigin>

You need to include the crossorigin attribute even if you are hosting the font files yourself.

Use the CSS font-display property to tell the browser how to manage the switchover from a system font to a web font. You could choose to show no text at all until the web font is loaded. You could choose to display the system font immediately and then switch over to the web font once it loads. Both strategies have their downsides. If you wait until the web font is downloaded before showing any text, users may find themselves staring at a blank page for a frustratingly long time. If you show the text in a system font first and then switch over to the web font, users may experience a jarring shifting of content on the page.

A good compromise is to wait for a short while before displaying any text. If the web font loads before that time is up, the text is displayed using the web font with no content shifts. If the web font still hasn't loaded after the time is up, the text is displayed using the system font so at least the user can read the content.

Use a font-display value of swap if you still want the web font to replace the system font whenever the web font finally loads.

body {
  font-family: Roboto, sans-serif;
  font-display: swap;

Use a font-display value of fallback if you want to stick with the system font once text has been rendered.

body {
  font-family: Roboto, sans-serif;
  font-display: fallback;

Variable fonts

If you are using lots of different weights or styles of the same typeface, you may end up using lots of separate font files—a separate font file for each weight or style.

Variable fonts solve this problem by using one file. Instead of having separate files for regular, bold, extra bold, and so on, a variable font file is responsive. It contains all the information it needs to be displayed across a spectrum of weights or styles.

The letter 'A' shown in different weights.

This means that a single variable font file is larger than a single regular font file, but a single variable font file will probably be smaller than multiple regular font files. If you're using lots of different weights, a variable font could give you a big performance gain.

Good typography on the web isn't just about the type choices that you make as a designer. Responsive typography is also about respecting the user's device and network connection. The end result is a design that feels right no matter how it's being viewed.

Now that you've mastered responsive text, it's time to dive into responsive images.

Check your understanding

Test your knowledge on typography

Styles must be added for text to wrap within the viewport.

Adding styles is not necessary.
Text will wrap by default without any additional styles.

clamp() is useful for fluid typography because

It allows easy embedding of calc() functions
While this is true, it's not a good reason to use clamp() for typography.
The browser support for it is great.
While this is true, it's not a good reason to use clamp() for typography.
It allows locking the font size between sensible minimums and maximums while also providing a scalable middle value.
Exactly, prevent too small or too large text, while also providing a smooth scaling font size.
It makes the math easy.
Try again.

Which type of line-height values were recommended in this guide?

The post explicitly says don't use pixel values for line-height.
While rems are relative values, they can still create too small or too large line-heights.
Unitless relative values are recommended.
Viewport units as line-height would problematic.

What does font-display do?

Tells the browser how to manage switching from a system font to a web font.
Helps with the transition to a custom font.
Allows setting the font to block or inline-block.
Fonts do not have display types.
Changes if the font is hidden or not.
Fonts cannot be hidden.
Provides control for timing the user experience of loading remote fonts.
Helps authors tailor the loading experience of custom fonts.