A part of
Increase Your Profits:

Business Writing Made Clear

by Jennifer Hicks, CEO, WordsWork

Elements of Design

OK. Hopefully, after the last nine articles, you have a clear idea of the direction in which you want your business communications to go. Terrific.

There's another step, though. How will it all look?

Issue # 10

originally posted

Wednesday, March 11, 1998

Design issues are almost as important as the content of your message. If the way it looks doesn't strike someone's fancy, chances are s/he won't be bothered to even scan what you've written.

Make your words stand out. But, bear in mind that your design should enhance your communication--not overwhelm it.

In order to do that, you need to use white space.

Take a look at the way this column is laid out.

Notice the short paragraphs that allow you to quickly move from one idea to the next? Notice the placement of color that helps draw your eyes down the screen?

A Web site, a brochure, a letter. None benefit from being overcrowded. For some reason, many readers associate the crowding of words on a page or screen with unfocused ideas--or the words of long-winded academics. Neither of which is helpful in a business model.

"A Web site, a brochure, a letter. None benefit from being overcrowded."

Keep what you have to say focused. Remember your target audience and write to suit their needs. Use white space and color to highlight the text by moving the reader's eyes toward it.

  • Use bullets to emphasize important points.

    Graphics are also important in that they visually represent you. If you have a logo, use it--not all over the place, but in an eye-catching area. This works with both Web sites and printed publications. But, don't go graphics-happy. Too many images can be distracting and, on a Web site, they can take so long to download that no one will wait around to see them.

  • Along with graphics, consider the font you use. Think, again, about your audience. Are they highly educated, literate readers? If so, you can probably get away with a smaller typeface and more dense text. If not though, the type face should be clearly readable.

    While sans-serif fonts are great for headlines, serif fonts (which use little lines at the end of characters) are better for basic text. Serif fonts help draw the reader's eye along the letter, making it easier to read.

    For a clear view of serif and sans-serif fonts, see PC Webopaedia.

    For an interesting study on readability, font choice, and computer monitors, see a paper published by Fidelity.

    Also, the University of New York/Buffalo has a long discussion about font and typeface as it affects people's ability to understand what they read.

    This is particularly true for people who have vision problems or particular learning disabilities--which affect close to 30% of the population in the US alone.

    Consider, too, the color of the text and the background color. Blue on blue can't be read by people who are color blind. Too many colors can be distracting. Fluorescent colors, while appropriate to gain immediate attention, create a difficult background for text to be readable.

    Clearly, design choices will influence how your messages are received. Before putting out the money for a large print campaign or new Web site, arm yourself with what you need to know.

    Or, find a professional who does.

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    Want to read more?

    Go back to Issue # 9

    This is the last article in the series,
    but you can see all the previously covered topics in the

    Jennifer Hicks is CEO and President of WordsWork, a communications consulting firm that works with clients to provide for their training, writing, editorial, and research and communication strategy needs. Since its start in 1996, the company has experienced tremendous growth and has grown from a one-person show to a staff of more than 25 full- and part-time people. Clients have ranged from start-ups to companies in the Fortune 500. While their trainers, writers, and editors have expertise in a variety of areas including technology, business, education, and medicine, they are renowned specialists in communications for the healthcare industry. For more information, contact info@wordswork.com
    Phone: (774) 368-0514
    Fax: (508) 374-8389

    Text © Jennifer Hicks, 1998. Part of the original Sideroad.
    The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at www.sideroad.com.