On a document’s appearance

On a document’s appearance …

Appearances are important.  Whether it’s right or it’s wrong to do so, people make judgments on something based upon how that something looks.  Think about your own life experiences:  Would you eat in a restaurant that had greasy dishes and crusty silverware?  Would you want to stay in a hotel that had filthy bedding and a mold-stained shower?  Don’t we base our attraction to others, at least in part, on the other person’s appearance?

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Well, it’s not all that different with writing!  If a document looks disorganized, we don’t want to read it.  Instead, we resist it.  If a document is nothing more than one long paragraph, we don’t want to read it.  Long blocks of unbroken text are unappealing at best, intimidating at worst.

Think about how you feel when you open a text book.  (Of course, you actually have to open a text book for this example to have any relevance!)  When Chapter 13 in your sociology text, for example, is just one unbroken string of words, doesn’t your heart sink just a little?  When there are no pictures?  No organizational devices?  No bullets, no numbering, no text-friendly devices to help the reader along?

It’s important to make your documents reader friendly.  You can use a variety of devices to do so.  Bold, italics, highlighting, bulleted lists and numbered lists – all of these simple devices can make a page reader friendly and improve its organization.

Don’t underline, though.  Underlining can obscure parts of letters, particularly those letter parts that extend below the line.  For example, look how underling obscures letter parts in the following example:

g & y & p

And don’t use ALL CAPS, which tend to shout and to over-emphasize even the most emphatic message.  You can also use color for organization and to orient readers.  Sub-headings also can be useful organizational devices.

Don’t, however, use organizational devices simply to decorate.  Documents aren’t Christmas trees.  They don’t require decoration; they require organization!

What you see below is an excerpt from a student’s workplace instructions assignment done previously in this class.  Take a moment now to look it over…

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