Josh Wilson | July 21, 2022
You don’t get much time to make a good impression these days. Readers will judge your document on the way it’s presented long before they understand its main messages. You could have written fantastically engaging text, but if it doesn’t look inviting, you’re not clearing the first hurdle. Laying out your document well also makes it more accessible and clearer.
Make an impact with your document by using:
Contrast and colour are important aspects of readability. Readers with colour blindness or limited vision can struggle with grey text or coloured backgrounds. We recommend sticking with black text on a white background unless you have a pressing need to do otherwise.
Contrast also involves giving your headings a visual hierarchy, so that readers can clearly see which ones are at a ‘higher level’. This will help headings stand out clearly from the body text, and from each other.
Align text to the left. Justified text, which aligns to both sides of the page, is harder to read. This alignment creates lines of identical length by adjusting spaces between words. The adjusted spacing forces the eye to work harder, as readers don’t know exactly where the next word will start. It also causes unsightly ‘rivers’ where these uneven spaces line up vertically.
If you indent text, use the same indent throughout.
Help your readers grasp your information faster by repeating elements in your document. For example, use consistent bullet points, and the same font for the same type of information.
Repetition also helps your document look professional and cohesive. Cohesiveness is especially important in large documents with many contributors, such as proposals or annual reports. Without a consistent look, these documents can look ‘thrown together’.
Make it clear which parts of the document are related by keeping them close together. For example, keep headings close to the text they introduce, with more space above the heading than below. This stops the headings looking like they ‘float’ between paragraphs, and makes it easier for the reader to understand how the parts of the document relate to each other.
Have you ever looked at a document that felt like a wall of text? That was because the text was too dense. This is where breaking up your document with some empty space comes in.
Aim to keep each paragraph to 6 lines or fewer. Aim to keep each line to a maximum of 15 words, fewer still on a webpage.
If you follow all of these tips, you’ll create an inviting document that draws your readers in. After that, it’s much easier to get them to act on your messages.
Use our handy tips to ensure your documents have a polished look every time.