Adding flair to your documents is great, but no one will give you their business or publish your paper because of the color of your text or the effects on your pie chart. Effective document design is about helping your important information stand out. Take a look at two versions of a business letter to see how basic design elements can make a document more effective.
Here are some tips to help grab and focus your reader’s attention.
1. Choose your content carefully.
When you try to say everything, nothing gets noticed. Make choices and give your important content room to breathe. When a page or graphic is overcrowded, it’s hard to make anything stand out. Being selective about what content to include is one of the best things you can do for your document.
2. Select or create a document theme.
The Microsoft Office 2007 introduced an important new feature that makes it easier than ever to create the right look for your documents and to coordinate all of your Microsoft Office documents almost instantly.
A theme is a coordinated set of fonts, colors, and graphic effects that you can apply to your entire document with just a click. The same themes are available to your Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Excel workbooks, and even your Microsoft Outlook email messages, so itâ€™s easy to create your own personal or business branding throughout all of your documents.
When you use a theme in your document, you automatically get fonts, color, and graphic effects that go together, and you can format text and graphics with just a few clicks, as youâ€™ll see later in this article.
- Find many built-in themes in the Themes gallery on the Page Layout tab, in the Themes group. Just point to options to preview that theme in your documents.
- You can also mix and match theme colors, fonts, and effects to quickly create your own look. Select separate theme color, theme font, and theme effect sets from their respective galleries on the Page Layout tab:
3. Create your own set of styles
A style is a set of formatting that you give a name. Styles help you format the elements of your document consistently, and they can also save you a lot of time and work. For example, which of the following is faster and easier?
- Apply a font. Apply 14 point font size. Apply a font color. Apply bold. Add spacing before the paragraph. Set the text as a heading that shows up in your table of contents. Set the text to always stay with the paragraph that follows when it moves to a new page.â€¦ Orâ€¦
- Apply the Heading 1 paragraphs style.
As you might have guessed, Heading 1 style includes all of the formatting in the first bullet. Many styles come with your Word document by default. You can use them as they are, customize them, or create your own. Find styles on the Home tab, in the Styles group.
4. Use graphics to illustrate key points.
You donâ€™t have to be an artist to add a great-looking diagram or chart to your documents.
Tip: When your chart is created, an Excel worksheet opens where you can add and edit your data. And when you select the chart in your document, you see the Chart Tools Design, Layout, and Format tabs that make it easy to format and edit your chart. Find Chart Styles on the Design tab that automatically coordinate with your active document theme.
5. Use tables for page layouts.
Tables are organizers. They look great and they’re simple to manage. You can use them to hold text, graphics, or other tables. They can simplify even the most complex layouts. In fact, tables are one of the most powerful and flexible features available for your Word documents.
Tip: When you use a table to organize a complex page layout, itâ€™s easy to remove table borders so that the table structure isnâ€™t visible.
- To quickly remove borders (and any other formatting) from the table structure, apply the Table Normal style. To do this, click in the table and then press CTRL+SHIFT+S to open the Apply Styles pane. In the Style Name box, type Table Normal, and then press ENTER.
- If you donâ€™t like the changes that this style makes, press CTRL+Z to undo the action. Then, on the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Styles group, find the Borders list where you can change or remove borders without affecting other table formatting.
- If you still see borders after taking either of these steps, you may be viewing table gridlines, which are there only as guides and are not printed. To turn this feature off, on the Table Tools Layout tab, click View Gridlines.
6. Use heading styles and a table of contents.
You can easily organize documents into an outline by using the Heading 1 through Heading 9 paragraph styles in Word. Heading styles also provide other benefits: Insert cross-references to heading-styled text, easily add outline numbering, and create a table of contents in no time at all. Find these styles on the Home tab, in the Styles group.
7. Use footnotes for supporting details.
When you need to reference a source or provide detail for an important point, a footnote or endnote is an easy solution. They take almost no time to insert and keep supporting information out of the way but easily accessible.
8. Add an appendix.
Use an appendix if you have supporting information that’s too lengthy for footnotes or too detailed, such as an extensive data table. An appendix is a separate section at the back of your document, usually identified by a header and a different page number format in the footer.
9. Know what your document is doing.
Use formatting marks and the Reveal Formatting task pane to keep track of and change the formatting in your document.
10. Save editing time by using different views.
Different views are designed to help you accomplish different things. Find view options on the View tab or use the view shortcuts on the Status bar at the bottom of the Word window.
11. Place graphics that stay put and look great.
Have you ever had a graphic that moves or changes when you edit the text around it? Avoid that by using the In Line With Text layout. This layout option causes your graphic to behave similar to text so that itâ€™s easier to manage. For example, you can change the paragraph alignment from left to center in order to center the graphic horizontally on the page.
12. Use Paste Special to control the look of text, tables, and graphics.
Instead of using the Paste command to add or move content in your documents, try Paste Special. This feature can help you get exactly the result you want.
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