The second law of business writing: appearance counts

A good first impression makes a difference; a document that appears unreadable will probably not be read.

Just as your business clothes make a clear statement about your professionalism, the appearance of the material you write does too. If the page is sloppy or looks bad, your experience may be questioned. If the content sounds arrogant, outdated, or unreadable, you may have unknowingly set a negative response.

Before submitting your document, take a good look at it. Does it look attractive? Or is it unpleasant? The white space you see is not simply an absence of print; brings the reader’s gaze to the nearest black. If there is too much black, it seems too difficult to read and readers are reluctant to dive into it. They can put it aside, flick through it here and there, or just throw it away right away. Whatever they do, they haven’t been impressed.

So if there is not enough white space in your document, add some. How? Divide up any paragraphs that are more than two and a half inches long. Use lists. Maintain good margins. Or create a wide column for the text and a narrower column for the “extracted quotes.” By the way, extracted quotes are an ideal technique to use in dense documents because they clarify the overall look while repeating an important phrase or sentence from the text and drawing attention to it.

Conversely, if there is too much white space, the material appears disorganized and impossible to read. Of course, you can have a paragraph that has only one sentence. But if all your paragraphs are simple sentences, the document looks like the writer doesn’t really understand what a paragraph is. Fix it up.

Here’s how to improve the appearance of all your documents.

  • Think of white space as an important component of the letter or document. The margins should frame the material and the text should not appear too dense to overlook.
  • Try to keep the letters to one or two pages. If you must convey a lot of information, use a cover letter and attach it.
  • Avoid loose ends, such as a single sentence on a second page.
  • Use lists to efficiently move the reader’s view through information and add white space.
  • Keep paragraphs to a maximum of four sentences. In a letter, remember to close with a separate “Call to Action” paragraph; don’t write a one paragraph letter.

What you say is important to the reader. only if they bother to read. When you make your material look easy to read,it will actually be read. When your document seems accessible, it is. The truth is that, whether we like it or not, appearance counts.

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