Organizing a document
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Organizing a Document*. Write for the audience, not for yourself Use the ABC format Abstract (introduction, beginning) – purpose, scope, and contents Body – background, methods, and data Conclusion – results, action, emphasis, or personal note

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Organizing a document
Organizing a Document*

  • Write for the audience, not for yourself

  • Use the ABC format

    • Abstract (introduction, beginning) – purpose, scope, and contents

    • Body – background, methods, and data

    • Conclusion – results, action, emphasis, or personal note

      * Based on information from William S. Pfeiffer, Pocket Guide to Technical Writing, Second Edition, Columbus, Ohio: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Organizing a document 2
Organizing a Document (2)

  • Write different sections of the document for different readers

  • Use common threads of organization, theme, and style to link different sections of the document together

    • Begin each section with a purpose statement

    • Use frequent headings

    • Use active voice verbs

    • Use lead-ins at the beginning of sections

    • Include lists

    • Use graphics

    • Separate facts from opinions

Organizing a document 3
Organizing a Document (3)

  • Emphasize beginnings and endings by placing important information at the beginning and end of the document

  • Repeat key points in different sections of the document

Formatting techniques
Formatting Techniques

  • White space

  • Headings

  • Lists

  • Typefaces

White space
White Space

  • Use 1” to 1½” margins

  • Consider using double columns

  • Skip lines between paragraphs in single-spaced text

  • Use slightly more space above headings than below them

Headings and subheadings
Headings and Subheadings

  • Create headings and subheadings from the outline

  • Avoid using a single subheading

  • Maintain parallel grammatical form in headings of equal importance

  • Try to have at least one heading on each page of text

  • Use headings that reflect the content of the section

  • Establish a visual ranking of headings


  • Use lists frequently

  • Keep lists short

    • Five-9 items = the maximum number

    • Three items = the minimum number

  • Use bullets or numbers

  • Punctuate, space, and capitalize consistently

  • Use proper lead-ins and parallel structure


  • Serif type is generally used for text where visual variety improves reader attention

    • Times New Roman is a serif type

  • Sans serif type is generally used for headings where the uncluttered look attracts reader attention

    • Arial is a sans serif type

Why use graphics
Why Use Graphics?

  • To simplify ideas

  • To reinforce ideas

  • To create interest

  • To capitalize on universal symbols

Fundamentals of graphic use
Fundamentals of Graphic Use

  • Introduce all graphics (include the graphic number)

  • Locate a graphic immediately following the text in which it is first mentioned

    Exceptions (place the graphic in an appendix):

    • When numerous references are made in the text to the same graphic

    • If the graphic contains nonessential material

  • Position graphics (in documents) vertically if possible; otherwise, the top is on the left page margin

  • Keep graphics simple – avoid clutter and use ample white space

  • Provide titles, notes, keys, and source data for all graphics

  • Guidelines for using pie charts
    Guidelines for Using Pie Charts

    • Use 10 or less divisions

    • Move clockwise from 12:00

    • Use pie charts for percentages and money

    • Emphasize one piece of the pie by

      • Shading a wedge

      • Removing a wedge from the main pie

      • Placing related pie charts in a 3-dimensional drawing

    • Draw and label the chart correctly

    Guidelines for using bar graphs
    Guidelines for Using Bar Graphs

    • Use a limited number of bars

    • Show comparisons clearly

    • Maintain equal bar widths

    • Adjust space as needed

      • No space for close comparisons or for many bars

      • Equal space for significantly different bar heights

      • Variable space for gaps in data

    • Arrange the order of the bars with care

      • Sequential - to show a trend

      • Ascending or descending order – to make a point

    Guidelines for using line charts effectively
    Guidelines for Using Line Charts Effectively

    • Use line charts for trends

    • Strive for accuracy and clarity

      • Start all scales from zero

      • Choose a visually pleasing vertical-to-horizontal ratio for axis lengths

      • Make chart lines as thick as (or thicker than) the axis lines

      • Place numbers outside the line chart itself

      • Use no more than 5 (preferably no more than 4) lines on a given chart