Five typography tips to make your document look top-notch

For organisations that provide education choose a font that exudes quality and sophistication like DM Serif Display or Playfair Display for headings and pair with Lato or Helvetica for body text. Avoid using detailed fonts or uppercase characters in body as it is difficult to read. It’s better to use decorative typefaces only for titles and headings, and to stick with something simple for body text. Want to know more about choosing the right fonts see Fonts 101: How to choose the right fonts.

Tip: Try pairing a serif font with a sans serif font. It’s ok to use two sans serif fonts, but two serif fonts will look too busy.

Two: get the size right Word’s default font size is too large for most applications. Almost every newspaper, magazine and book uses a font size of between 8-10. Follow their lead. Unless you have a good reason to use a larger font size for your audience 8-10 will do just fine, especially if you get your line spacing right…

Tip: Always adjust your body text size. Word’s default is too big.

Three: adjust the line spacing Default line spacing is great for headings, but for large paragraphs it’s best to increase the line spacing (leading). More space between lines makes long documents easier on the eye.

Tip: Try line spacing of 1.5 for body text in Word to improve readability.

Four: work with columns For readability, the optimum number of characters per line should be around 80. For an A4 document with portrait orientation try a two-column layout. For an A4 document with landscape orientation try a three- or four-column layout. Adding columns to a document can make large blocks of text seem less overwhelming.

Five: be careful with colours None of the above will matter if you’re not careful with your colour choices. White text is often easier to read than black text when using coloured backgrounds. The exception being very light coloured backgrounds. Generally, the higher the contrast between text and background, the easier it is to read. Be careful of using combinations of coloured text and coloured background – using opposing colours does not necessarily mean they are contrasting colours. Red and green are an example of two opposing colours that are very similar in lightness and will create very difficult to read text when used together. When in doubt opt for black or white text on colour.

Tip: Try white text on coloured backgrounds first. If it’s too difficult to read then try black. Unless the background is quite pale, white will be easier to read.

It’s always best to use your own judgement when designing. If something doesn’t look quite right, go with your gut. Remember these are just guidelines, there’s always some exceptions to the rule, but these are some good ideas to get you started.

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