Continuing development of computers and computer software has now made it possible for anyone to do document layout.
If you are not a graphic specialist/graphic designer but are required to “desktop” documents, there are some basics to keep in mind.
Design documents to be reader-friendly. Look at the software you’re using as a tool to help you accomplish this.
Too many people see desktop publishing (aka desktopping) and word processing packages as opportunities to go wild with fonts and multiple “creative elements” (aka clip art).
For your documents to be reader-friendly, here are some tips to help you:
Use smart (curly) quotes
instead of straight marks – which are actually the inch and foot marks – when you are using a quote.
These are smart quotes “ ”. This is not " – it’s an inch mark.
This is an apostrophe ’. This is not ' – it’s a foot mark
Learn to use “space after”
for putting space between paragraphs. Double returns add too much space and make the work look gappy.
Use only one space after all punctuation. Page layout software adds enough space after punctuation so if you double-space after a period it will look odd. And, if you do add two spaces after a period, and then send the file to a graphic designer, the designer will have to remove all the extra space and this can cost you money.
Don’t use the default 12 pt type (unless you are writing to an audience that requires larger type). Set your copy at 10.5 or 11pt.
Limit the number of fonts you use to two. Preferably san serif for heads and subheads, and serif for body copy. If you prefer to use san serif for body copy, make the line lengths shorter and add more space – leading – between the lines.
NEVER UNDERLINE TYPE! to emphasize a word or words. It's a throwback to the manual typewriter days. Use bold instead.
All caps are difficult to read. We recognize a word by its shape as well as by the letters.
Using all caps makes every word roughly the same shape so your readers have to read letter by letter.
and, ALL CAPS IMPLIES YOU’RE SHOUTING!
Reverse and outlined shadowed types are also difficult to read and don’t look good.
Avoid using screened grey boxes behind text. If you must use a grey screen, use a sans serif face for the type.
Use real bullets (•) instead of hyphens for bulleted lists.