July 2008
Writing eTips: mid-month mini UpWrite Press

Basic Design Principles

Colored Pencils

During the course of your career, you may be asked to design a document or presentation. Don’t panic. By applying a few simple rules of design, you can create an article, a slideshow, a brochure, or even a manual that gets your point across. Here are a few basic principles of good design.

  • Create ease. Above all, strive for clarity. Select readable typefaces, along with type sizes and graphics that clarify your material rather than cluttering it.
  • Create focus. For each page or slide, ask yourself, “What’s the most important element? What’s second? What’s third?” Then create a design that gives each element its due.
  • Create flow. Ask yourself, “Where do I want readers to look first? Next? Afterward?” Then orient elements sequentially from left to right and top to bottom.
  • Create balance. Use a pleasant combination of text, graphics, and white space. Sidebars can differentiate special text from the main text, and graphics such as photos, charts, or tables can make your point visually. Also remember to use white space to provide visual relief.
  • Create consistency. Parallel elements call for parallel treatments. For example, you should use a consistent style in font, size, color, and capitalization for each heading level.

Remember that, with design, less is more. The design should function like a lens, focusing the reader’s attention on the content rather than on itself. Whenever a design element distracts the reader, you’ve lost an opportunity to get your point across. Instead of dazzling with design, dazzle with content.

You can find more about basic design principles on pages 101–104 of Business and Sales Correspondence, part of the EZ Series of business writing materials from UpWrite Press. Or check out pages 158–159 of Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing & Communicating in the Workplace.


On-Site Training Workshops

Our on-site training workshops bring the best business writing instruction directly to your staff. You choose the time and place; we provide the expert presenters, tailoring each workshop specifically to your business’s needs. And while on-site training from UpWrite Press is always interesting and informative, it is also enjoyable and memorable. Read more about our on-site training.

That Little Extra

Writing style is just like clothing style. In different situations, different types of writing are appropriate. Just as you wouldn’t show up at a meeting wearing your swimsuit, you shouldn’t write a report using slangy language or text-messaging syntax. By the same token, you wouldn’t show up at a meeting in a tuxedo or a ball gown, so your business documents shouldn’t sound like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. In August, we’ll go into greater depth about levels of formality, but here’s a quick rule of thumb: Most business writing calls for a semi-formal voice—the equivalent of dress-casual clothing.

Join Our Writers’ Forum

We invite you to be part of our monthly eTips. Each month we pose a question or problem regarding the use of writing in business. Send us your reply along with your name, your company’s name, and a brief description of what you do. We will print the best responses, and you will get your name out to our more than 5,000 subscribers! (We reserve the right to edit your remarks for fit and suitability.)


August Writers’ Forum Topic

Have you tried any new and exciting software lately? Are there any programs that get your motor running, or do you have a tried-and-true application you couldn’t live without? Share your favorites—old and new—with us.

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “July Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

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Coming in August:

Choosing the Correct Level of Formality

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eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc., P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105. Copyright © 2008,
UpWrite Press. All rights reserved. Visit www.upwritepress.com.