Business Writing Tip #29 – Some more pointers about layout

In the previous post I talked about using lists as a way to make your text easier for your reader to read. But there are times when we can’t use lists. So what can we do then?

Write short paragraphs

When it comes to reading a novel by Charles Dickens you might be happy to work your way through long paragraphs, but when it comes to business writing, short is definitely sweeter. Short sentences. Short paragraphs.

You want to make it easy for readers to skim read what you have written.

You want to avoid people struggling for hours to work out just where your sentence or paragraph is heading.

So keep it short.

Use white space

Think about it. It may seem as though it’s wasted space, but when there’s white space on the page, between the paragraphs and between the sections, it’s easier for your eye to run through it quickly and find the relevant information.

Which document would you prefer to read?

Use space when you lay out business letters. Put space between the heading, the greeting, each paragraph, your closing, and your signature block.

Font

Keep your font simple. I suggest a serif font like Times New Roman or Cambria for printed documents, and a sans serif font like Arial for things people will read on their screens. If you use colour, use it to highlight items that you really need to emphasise, and use it sparingly. A document with too many fonts and too many colours looks messy.

Headings

Use headings to guide your reader through your document. Not everyone needs to read everything. If you make it clear that certain information is contained in certain sections, people can read what they need to.

Graphics and Images

Use appropriate graphics and images to illustrate your points. If you want to show a price trend, or company growth, a clear graph will make your point more quickly than a narrative. These also help to break up large chunks of text and make the overall document more accessible to your readers.

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