What is a good document?
From my viewpoint, a good document consists of detailed information, well-written and grammatically correct sentences coupled with intriguing visual presentation that could attract the attention of the readers and prompt them to read further. According to Reep (2006), an effective document exists when words and visuals are integrated as part of the content that could direct the readers to the important section and interest them with eye-catching visual cues.
Below is one of the presentation slides from my group and I will analyze it and give recommendation based on design principles and theories so that it could achieve a greater impact on the readers.
Figure 1: Introduction
The slide appears to be too verbose. It does not seem to have a ‘breathing’ space for the readers as everything is crammed together. Also, the lack of visual aids could not fascinate the readers because they would not know where to focus on. Consequently, the readers would probably get bored within the first two minutes and this would hamper the reading process.
In order to modify the layout, there should be a combination of prose and graphics to provide emphasis to the important section. Schriver (1997) revealed that words and pictures complement each other to help the readers to comprehend the main ideas. With each mode works independently to offer information (be it visual or textual), it could strengthen and clarify the content as a whole. Moreover, Anderson noted that (1987 cited in Putnis & Petelin 1996, p.236) a good document design can make the reading process easier and more effective and is able to make a connection with the readers. Kress & van Leeuwen (2006, p.177) proposed that size relation and placement of colors are useful to create salience in designing the layout. Bigger fonts and bright color background (blue color is deemed as the universal favorite for presentation) could help to draw the attention and guide the readers to read the headings and subheadings.
On the other hand, the writing style in the presentation slide is quite straightforward and enables the information to be presented directly. However, the terms used by the writer might be a bit vague and hard to imagine for the readers. Furthermore, the main ideas are not showed in a succinct form. Putnis & Petelin (1996, p.254) supported this as they pointed out readers would not accept documents that regard as ‘distracting, disconcerting, irritating and confusing’. Hence, the writer should first determine the target audience, genre, and conventions applicable in the reader’s cultural context before penning down the ideas. Avoid complex sentences and try to read the presentation slides from the readers’ point of view are some of the golden rules for good writing (Amott 2009).
Amott, L 2009, Are You Making These Writing Mistakes?, viewed 6 September 2009, < http://www.docsymmetry.com/mistakes-technical-writers-make.html>.
Kress, G & van Leeuwen, T 2006, Reading Images: The grammar of visual design, Routledge, London.
Putnis, Peter & Petelin, Roslyn 1996, ‘Writing to communicate,’ in Professional communication, Prentice Hall, Sydney, pp. 223 – 256.
Reep, Diana C. 2006, ‘Chp 4: Principles of Document Design,’ in Technical Writing, 6th ed., Pearson Edu, Inc., New York, p. 173 – 190.
Schriver, KA 1997, ‘The interplay of words and picture’, in Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Publication, New York, pp. 361 – 441.