Writing E-Tips
September 2004   
This no-fee publication may be printed out or forwarded, without alteration, for noncommercial use only.

"The reward of a thing well done is to have done it."

--- Ralph Waldo Emerson   

Letting Design Work for You
     Your goal in creating a written document is to get it read. Your design should (1) follow company standards, (2) make information easy to read and understand, and (3) be attractive to the reader.
Page Layout. Create attractive, readable documents by utilizing effective layout.
  • Use an engaging combination of print, graphics, and white space.
  • Keep headings consistent in size and presentation.
  • Separate main and secondary points with visual cues such as numbers, bullets, or indentations.
  • Keep headings with accompanying text—don’t separate by page or column breaks.
  • Avoid starting a page or column with a single word or line. Keep all listed items on the same page.

Format. Follow the format required by your company, or use a standard format.

  • Different types of documents have different rules. Follow the right ones.
  • Consider the number and width of columns, if used, and the overall look of the document.
  • If you use graphics, make sure they are relevant and improve the overall look of the document. Size them right: you want them to be seen on the page without overpowering it.
  • If a document has more than one page, use page numbers or headers to keep things clear and organized.


Typography. Use easy-to-read typefaces and sizes.

  • Regular text should be set in size 10-12 point, subheadings at 14-16, and major headings at 16-20.
  • Acceptable typefaces include serif styles such as Times Roman, Bookman, Schoolbook, or Garamond.
  • For special text, headings, and on-screen documents, use a sans serif type such as Arial or Helvetica.
  • For emphasis, use underlining, highlighting, italics, boxes, uppercase, or color. Don’t overdo the use of special effects, though. Keep it simple.

Additional Tips.

  • Use boldface type to draw attention to key information.

  • Separate blocks of text with headings and lists.
  • Leave enough white space to break text into readable units. Use a space between paragraphs or sections.
  • Use appropriate margins on all sides. Keep lines a moderate length for easy reading.
  • Keep text flush left; use a ragged right margin unless company standards demand full justification.
Strive for good design that offers a clean, professional style.
It will reflect well on you and your company.

The preceding tips are from
Write for Business:
A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating

You can learn more about well-designed documents on pages 158-159 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating. You will also find a detailed “Proofreader’s Guide” on pages 187-266 to help you with grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and mechanics.

Coming in the October Issue:
“Using Graphics in Business Documents, Part I”

Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating
is available for purchase at 1-800-261-0637 ext. 10,
or on the Web at www.upwritepress.com.

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"Writing E-Tips" is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc.
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Copyright © 2004, UpWrite Press. All rights reserved.