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GEN BUS 360: Workplace Writing and Communication (Spring 2022)

Formatting for On-screen Readers

We’d all like to think that readers pore over our messages; the truth is that you’ll be lucky to receive a quick skim.  Use the following strategies to ensure that skimmers and scanners receive the main ideas of your messages and know exactly where to go for more detail.

 

Frontload Key Information

Put main ideas first (except when using the indirect approach for conveying negative news or saying no).

 

Avoid Large Blocks of Text

Use short sentences and paragraphs (in business writing some paragraphs may be one to two sentences long). No one wants to read messages that consist of a single large block of text.

 

Use Block Format

  1. Align text with the left margin
  2. Use single space
  3. Add a line space between paragraphs
  4. Do not indent paragraphs

 

Add Graphic Emphasis

Provide graphic emphasis where needed to make information easier to     grasp quickly (bold, italics, small caps, etc.).

 

Make Main Ideas Pop with Headings and Subheadings

Organize messages into subpoints supported by details and then use those subpoints to create headings.

 

Use Parallel Structures

Parallel lists aid reader comprehension. Parallelism means that each item in a list follows the same grammatical pattern.

Instead of this

Write this

This book was exciting, well written, and held my interest.

This book was exciting, well written, and interesting.

The decline in company profit is due to four factors:

  • Holiday sales have slowed down
  • Increased transportation and fuel costs
  • We are experiencing higher employee wages
  • Slowing inventory turnover

The decline in company profit is due to four factors:

  • decreased holiday sales
  • increased transportation and fuel costs
  • increased employee wages
  • reduced inventory turnover

Content Credit

Content on this page was created by the Business Communication team at the Wisconsin School of Business.