Digest | Introduction | Reader And Purpose | Organizing Ideas | Appropriate Words | Simple Sentences | Effective Paragraphs | Design | Testing | More Information

Design

Spacing

  • Keep paragraphs no more than four or five sentences.
  • Leave space between paragraphs.
  • Divide your documents into sections of related information.
  • Don't print on every inch of space on your page.
  • Be generous with margin space.
  • Use left justified and right ragged margins.
Headings
Use clear and consistent style for headings and subheadings.

Highlighting

  • Use boxes to separate key information from the rest of your text.
  • Use bullets for point form lists.
  • Use italics to emphasize a phrase or word.
  • Underline titles.
  • Use color or shaded areas to set text apart.
Table of contents
Make a table of contents for long documents. Use an Introduction section in shorter documents. This helps readers find the information they are looking for. It is especially helpful for people with low reading skills.

Type style and size
Choose a solid, plain typeface which is easy to read. Don't combine more than three different typefaces on the same page because it will give a busy, confusing appearance.

Make sure the typeface is big enough for your readers. Ten point is the minimum size to use. Consider that some people may prefer a larger type size. Twelve point is a good size for most writing.

Don't use all capital letters as they are harder to read.

A serif typeface makes text easier to read because it leads your eye from letter to letter. A sans serif typeface is good for titles because it draws your eye down into the body of the text. Some examples of serif fonts are:

  • New York
  • Palatino
  • Times Roman
  • Schoolbook
  • Courier.
Color of ink and paper
  • Use dark ink (blue or black) on light paper - white or cream.
  • Avoid color combinations with low contrast like yellow on white.
  • Avoid large passages of light print on a black background.
Graphics and Illustrations
Use graphics with caution. Make sure that they mean the same thing to your reader as they do to you. Ask people who would be using your document to look over the choice of graphics and illustrations. Don't use too many graphics.

Place all graphics and illustrations as close as possible to the text they refer to. Place them on the page in a way that does not interrupt normal reading patterns.

Make sure all graphics and illustrations are clear and the captions are easy to read. Be wary of using charts to explain information. People with poor math skills can find charts hard to understand.

Try this:

Collect several samples of documents used within your organization. Look at the material and identify examples of effective and ineffective presentation of information. Compare these against the guidelines presented here.


Other resources online:

Writing User-Friendly Documents
(U.S. National Performance Review)

"Write in a Visually Appealing Style"
"Use If-Then Tables"

Rapport: Design
Revise for your readers: Layout and design

The Plain Language Center in British Columbia
Layout and design principles applied

.