Good looking Word documents

While tastes differ for laying out Word documents, the universal rule (well to me), is that the reader is not distracted from the message, and doing things like having a multitude of fonts and font sizes as well as fussy formatting always distracts from the content.  Here’s a quick list of what I think are common formatting mistakes:

Erratic font size:
Be consistent and make your paragraphs one size, main headings another size and subheadings another size—and ideally don’t change font style.  As an example, if your body text is 12 point, your major heading might be 16 point and your second heading 14 point.  If there is only one heading, then body text size 12 and heading size 14.

Too many font styles:
Just because Microsoft gives you a multitude of fonts does not mean you are obligated to use them all (and in one document!).  Select an easy to read, clear when printed and readily supported font and stick with it all the way through a document. Office 2007 has chosen Calibri has a default, while 2003 and lower versions chose Times New Roman.  I never really liked Times New Roman, though it was the preferred academic font (well still is).  Think about your audience and don’t get swayed by something like Curlz MT or anything fussy unless you are making a poster for the school fete. Some people say it is ok to use a second font to set up say some headings, but I would choose to use bold, underline or a different size for that purpose.

Overuse of bold, italic and underline:
Over-using any of these attributes makes a document hard to read, especially if you are liberal with all three.  If you use one of this judiciously, let’s say bold, it can draw attention to the point you wish to highlight, but if you use a lot of bold it will lose that intended impact.  Bold tends to be more in fashion now than italic or underline, but those things do change over time.

Break up text:
Nothing looks worse than big slabs of text the reader will soon tire of it and your message may be lost. Break it up with properly broken up paragraphs, headings and bullet point lists if you really want to keep the reader’s interest.

One space or two after a sentence?
Some people have had two spaces drummed into them (me), while others only ever use one space after a sentence. One space is more commonly in use, but whichever you use, just be consistent.


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