Layout adding visual impact

Bottom line

Show your reader the underlying structure of your writing by using headings, lists, and other good techniques of white space.

When I give presentations on writing, my audiences usually consider layout to be the most important topic I cover.

What is layout, anyway? On its simplest level, it is whatever goes into the "look" of the page: something that appears open and inviting probably has good layout; something that appears cluttered and ««inviting probably has bad layout.

The look of a page is important, but we'll see that good layout has two other terrific advantages:

• Good layout shows the reader—visually—your organization.

• It also helps you—the writer—be organized in the first place.

Layout is much more than packaging a document: it is the driving force behind organization. People who are aware of the techniques of good layout almost always write with good organization.

In this chapter, I'll suggest three layout techniques:

• Use short paragraphs.

• Use bullets and other lists.

These techniques are important at all times and absolutely crucial when the content of your writing is complex—as business writing often is.

Let's look at each of these techniques in more detail.

Too often, the standard layout for business writing is wall-to-wall words. You've no doubt seen such pages. They look something like this (the gray part represents text):

One big paragraph—not very appealing, is it?

Now let's make the layout a little better by simply changing the shape of the words—arranging them into more paragraphs:

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