Abiword defaults to using Times New Roman as it's default font. This can be annoying if you don't like Times New Roman, particularly if you make a table and have to reset the font in every cell. The solution is to open ~/.AbiSuite/templates/normal.awt with a text editor like Vim or Gedit and replace Times New Roman with the font you like. Or you could do it with a sed. For example, if you like Bitstream Vera Sans and want to use the default (American) template
mkdir -p ~/.AbiSuite/templates && sed 's,Times New Roman,Bitstream Vera Sans,' /usr/share/AbiSuite-2.4/templates/normal.awt > ~/.AbiSuite/templates/normal.awt
Bitstream Vera Sans is a nice font but sadly AbiWord-2.4 has an annoying bug. It won't print some fonts in italic and Bitstream Vera Sans is one of the fonts affected. The solution is to use a different (inferior) font. You'll just have to try the fonts you have available and see which ones work.