Writing is a complex process with a seemingly endless array of choices. What kind of document will you write? What is your purpose in writing it? What point do you want to get across? How will the beginning, middle, and end of your writing be organized? How will you structure each sentence? Which words will you use?
Writers make all of these choices – and many more – although some of the choices are practically unconscious. (If they weren’t, not many writers would have the endurance to get past page one!) Given the overwhelming number of decisions writers have to make, it is understandable that many times they don’t pay attention to page design. Perhaps you are one of them. You may say, “Page design!?! Give me a break. I have enough to worry about with getting the words right, never mind whether the words look pretty on paper.” Fair enough. You’re a writer, not a designer. But ignoring layout may be doing your writing a real disservice. Simple design elements, when used thoughtfully, can give your readers a better experience, which will enhance your message’s effectiveness. More importantly, twenty-first century readers are quite sophisticated interpreters of subtle visual clues. Using layout, your piece can communicate a great deal more without adding a single word. Conversely, flawed page design can significantly damage the impact of high-quality written content.
What can good page design do for your writing? Page design can strengthen a document’s structural elements, such as organization and arrangement of ideas. It can also provide emphasis where you want it, drawing the reader’s attention to your document’s main points and minimizing the need for weakifiers. Finally, the aesthetic component of solid design can amplify a reader’s positive reaction to your work. Page design thus represents an opportunity for your writing either to shine or to stumble. Consequently, it makes sense to consider page design decisions as you write rather than after you write. Just as you do with writing, you’ll evaluate design options based on what the readers would prefer. The following are some simple design elements to consider when you’re constructing your next proposal, economics paper, novella, or blog post.