How to Visually Design Your Business Writing
BY: DAVID LEONHARDT ON WEDNESDAY, JUNE 06, 2018
The worlds of art and literature might seem far apart, but in business communication, words and images blur into a single effective message...if you do it right.
I have long advocated blog images with words embedded. This is for the simple reason that word images have the power to create curiosity and drive people to click through, to share and to otherwise engage with your content.
There are a few images that stand on their own, that are powerful enough to drive interaction. But most stock images and business images don't have that power.
Writing is a visual career
Much more rarely considered is the visual impact of your words. A good business writer needs to be a visual thinker. In this list of visual thinking careers, we see:
What, no writing? I am not surprised. Most people think of writing as being for authors and novelists. Authors often write in long paragraphs, because their readers are hooked on the story. When they speak of visual writing, they mean flowery adjectives and nouns that paint a picture.
Business writing also needs to be visual, but in a different way.
When you write for business, nobody is hooked. The look of your writing is almost as important as the words you choose. How your writing looks before the reader even starts reading will determine your success rate.Here are six easy tips to visually design your text...and why each tip is important.
Design short paragraphs
The single worst thing you can do in business writing is to present people with long, uninterrupted blocks of text. Why? Because it makes your text look like work to read. Hard work. Nobody will read it unless they are drooling for it.
But they aren't drooling. They are hitting backspace, usually to Google...and then to your competitor.
Your number one job as a business writer is to make it easy to read your material – so easy that people almost don't notice they are doing so. Less heavy text with more white space is much more welcoming.
Here is the bottom line: the more it looks to readers like they will have to sort through your information, the less likely they will read it. The more your material looks organized and effortless to search through, the more likely they will read it.
Write short sentences
Short sentences are mostly important for reading ease. But they are also important visually. In a short paragraph, periods are more obvious than in huge blocks of text. If people see three or four periods in a short paragraph, it will look easier to read.
Insert frequent subheadings
Subheadings break up your text so that it feels less heavy. It looks easier to read. It looks more organized. So, more people will actually read it.
Subheadings serve a second purpose. Even if people start to read your text, they often stop and start scanning down the page. Subheadings are like an open door through which they can seamlessly jump back in.
Front load your keywords
People scan your material from top to bottom, usually down the left side. If they came to your page looking for "stain removal tips", they'll look for those words on your page. Start some of your headings and paragraphs with those words. They will more likely jump back into a paragraph if the heading starts with the words they seek.
Add bullet lists
I love bullet lists. They are the ultimate make-it-easy-to-read tool.
- They create white space, making the text look easier to read.
- They front-load more of your information on the left side, where people scan.
- They show people that the information is organized for them, so easier to understand.
- They break up the longest, hardest-to-read sentences into several easy-to-read morsels.
Also, notice the shape of the bullet lists in this article? Yes, like a triangle. They look neat and organized. They feel easy to read, because the reader doesn't have to sort through the information.
Start with on-page navigation
If the page is long, a list of items at the top, clickable to the appropriate sections, is an instant welcome mat.
- It tells people that your information is organized.
- It breaks up the text, creating white space right near the start.
- It tells them that they can choose what to read – and people like choice.
- It tells them that it's easy to find what they want on the page (no hunting it down!)
Be a visual writer
As important as it is to choose the right words to convey your message, it's equally important to get them reading those words. After wrestling with a text for several hours, days or even longer, it's worth investing some time in the visual message you send.
Image via Shutterstock