This study suggests that Chinese newspaper characters are more legible than English newspaper letters. Characters in Chinese newspapers have higher acuity reserve than English newspapers.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate visual demand and acuity reserve for Chinese newspapers in comparison with published data on U.S. newspapers.
The test distances for visual acuity in Chinese clinical studies were reviewed systematically. Characters from different sections of newspapers printed in simplified Chinese were evaluated. The character height, frequency, and visual demand and acuity reserve of each newspaper section were determined for Chinese characters of the six different levels of complexity.
More than 70% of Chinese clinical studies measure near visual acuity at either 33 or 40 cm. The height of Chinese characters ranged from 1.95 to 3.28 mm across different sections of five newspapers compared with 1.0 to 2.0 mm for English letters. The frequency of Chinese characters from least to most complex ranged from 7 to 34% across 12 sections of one Chinese newspaper. The angular threshold across the six complexity levels of Chinese characters ranged from 4.62 to 5.93 arcmin (0.54 to 0.69 mm at 40-cm reading distance) with a weighted angular threshold of 5.18 arcmin compared with 3.37 arcmin (0.39 mm) for the English letters. For Chinese newspapers, at 40-cm reading distance, the acuity reserve for the smallest and largest median size was 3.55 and 4.61, respectively.
Chinese characters are larger than English characters in all newspaper sections newspapers by a factor of 1.60 to 2.34. Given that Chinese characters need to be 1.54 times larger than English letters to provide the same acuity reserve, on average, Chinese newspapers are more legible than U.S. English newspapers.