Do you get excited about brick walls? I don’t. In fact, if there’s one image that perfectly encapsulates the word “boring”, I think it’s a brick wall!
I feel the same way about slabs of text. To me, they represent brick walls: impenetrable, tedious, uninspiring. They seem like a lot of hard work. I usually switch off and move on to something else.
Fabulous writing isn’t just about the content. The design and formatting of your words are critical to hooking your readers and keeping them engaged.
To have maximum impact on your audience, your writing – whether it’s for a business document, blog post, website copy or brochure – must be easy to read. Paragraph after paragraph of uniform, uninterrupted text is hard on the eyes. Without any visual interest, it’s hard to keep your readers interested.
So how can you ensure your copy has visual appeal? Here are five simple document design tips to keep your readers engaged:
1. Use headings and subheadings
These give your copy structure and guide the reader through the points you’re making. They also add visual appeal.
2. Use bullet points
These keep your readers moving through the copy while maintaining their interest. They allow readers to scan your piece without getting bogged down in too much detail. Keep your bullet points brief and avoid using sub-bullets. They look messy.
3. Use break-out quotes
Also called pull quotes, these are effective design elements that draw readers into your writing. They can be used to emphasise something and break up long blocks of text. Make sure your break-out quotes are interesting. They should be instantly recognisable and distinct from the rest of the text (eg. larger point size, different font and/or different colour).
4. Use no more than three fonts
Be consistent with your fonts. Too many fonts can make a document look cluttered and confuse the reader. It’s a great idea to choose a font for the body copy, then use variations of this font (bold, italics and different sizes) for headings, captions, subheadings and break-out quotes.
5. Avoid all caps
Using all caps (writing an entire word in capital letters) has a strong effect. But its over-use is confusing and lazy. It can come across as aggressive, as though the writer is shouting at the reader. For example, “This is a LIMITED OFFER.” Too many all caps looks messy and unprofessional. If you want to emphasise something, use italics or bold.
As you can see, it’s worth spending the extra time on the presentation of your words. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn page after page of dreary text into an engaging, easy-to-read document that makes a lasting impact on your audience.