How to embed fonts in a Word document

Many have told me they’d switch to pro­fes­sional fonts (like those shown in font rec­om­men­da­tions) if only they could em­bed the fonts in a Word doc­u­ment (mean­ing, the .docx for­mat) so that the ty­pog­ra­phy & lay­out would be pre­served when they send the doc­u­ment to others.

There’s good news and bad news. The good: con­trary to ur­ban leg­end, it is pos­si­ble to em­bed fonts in a Word doc­u­ment. The bad: the tech­nique has some Mi­crosoft-im­posed lim­i­ta­tions that may make the fea­ture too dis­ap­point­ing to bother with. Namely—

  1. Word can only em­bed fonts on your sys­tem that have been in­stalled in the TTF for­mat. If your font files are in the OTF for­mat, you can’t em­bed them in Word documents.

    How do you know which are TTF? It’s the most com­mon for­mat for Win­dows fonts, but you can ver­ify by dou­ble-click­ing the font file and look­ing for the la­bel “True­Type outlines”.

    On Mac OS, open Font Book, se­lect the font, and type ⌘I to re­veal its info sheet. The “Kind” must be “True­Type”, not “Open­Type Post­Script”. Un­for­tu­nately the most com­mon for­mat for Mac OS fonts is Open­Type Post­Script, so these can’t be embedded.

  2. Word can only em­bed fonts that are marked (by the de­signer or man­u­fac­turer) as per­mit­ting em­bed­ding. My fonts al­low em­bed­ding, but many pro­fes­sional fonts un­for­tu­nately do not.

    How do you know which fonts are so marked? In the Win­dows font ex­plorer, look for fonts where the “font em­bed­d­a­bil­ity” field is set to “ed­itable” or “installable”.

    On Mac OS, open Font Book, se­lect the font, and type ⌘I to re­veal its info sheet. The “Em­bed­ding” value must be “Ed­itable” or “Installable”.

  3. Per­haps most in­fu­ri­at­ing, Word will em­bed any num­ber of styles per fam­ily, but it will only dis­play one. Mean­ing, if you’re us­ing reg­u­lar, italic, bold, and bold italic in your doc­u­ment, all four styles will be em­bed­ded. But when your re­cip­i­ent opens the file, only the reg­u­lar will dis­play cor­rectly; the italic, bold, and bold italic will be Word-syn­the­sized ap­prox­i­ma­tions, not the em­bed­ded fonts.

This last lim­i­ta­tion means that Mi­crosoft Word has reached the ex­alted state where it is not com­pat­i­ble with it­self: it is writ­ing data into its file for­mat that it can­not read. Worst of all, this is not a bug—it’s the in­tended behavior.

“Word syn­the­sizes the bold and italic styles? Doesn’t that change the lay­out?” Yes. So if you were hop­ing that em­bed­ding the fonts would pre­serve your lay­out—be­cause isn’t that the whole point of hav­ing font em­bed­ding at all?—it won’t. Re­cip­i­ents of your Word doc­u­ment can still open & edit the file. But ex­cept for the reg­u­lar style, the ty­pog­ra­phy will look janky, and the line breaks and page breaks won’t nec­es­sar­ily be accurate.

If, hav­ing con­sid­ered these lim­i­ta­tions, you con­clude that you’d rather not tan­gle with em­bed­ding fonts in Word, I can’t blame you. As for the fog of con­fu­sion, rage, and de­spair—it’s a nor­mal side ef­fect, and will even­tu­ally dissipate.

For the few remaining—

How to embed fonts in a Word document

Win­dowsGo to File and se­lect Options from the left-hand menu (if your win­dow is short, it will be stashed un­der More…). In the re­sult­ing “Word Op­tions” box, choose Save from the left side. Scroll to the sec­tion named “Pre­serve fi­delity when shar­ing this doc­u­ment”. Check the box named Embed fonts in this file. Con­firm that the other two boxes are not checked (Embed only the characters used … and Do not embed common system fonts).

Mac OSGo to the Word menu, se­lect Preferences…, and then the Save icon (be­wil­der­ingly il­lus­trated with a 1980s floppy disk). Un­der the Font Embedding sec­tion, check the box named Embed fonts in this file.

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