Click HERE to return to the Plain English intro page. banner.gif (20700 bytes)

GUIDELINES FOR USING LAYOUT AND TYPOGRAPHY TO CREATE EFFECTIVE EMPHASIS

Please Note: These are recommendations from experts based on research in technical writing. They are guidelines, not rules.

Layout

Margins

  • Use justified left but ragged right all through letter
  • Leave 1 inches left and 1 inches right

Leading (space between lines)

  • Set 2 points larger than type size (e.g., 12 over 14)

Headings

  • Use upper and lower case (not all caps)
  • Set in boldface
  • Justify to the left margin
  • Triple-space before headings and double-space after (19.2 points before, 8.4 points after)

Typography

Fonts

  • Select a serif font for the text of the letter (like Times Roman)
  • Don’t mix fonts within the text of the letter
  • Select a sans serif font for the headings (like Arial)

Shading/Boxing

  • Use shading and boxing only to accent graphs, charts, etc.

 Bullets

  • Use standard bullets (if you choose others, like diamonds or arrows, be consistent)
  • Generally, don’t use more than two types of bullets in a letter
  • Use numbers only if there is a sequence to identify

Bold/Italics/Underlining

  • Use bold for emphasis (not underlining)
  • Use italics for parenthetical information, like citations of laws

Before You Finish

  • Take a long look at the appearance of the letter for eye-appeal
  • Be sure the letter does not look visually confusing
  • Don’t overuse layout and typographical devices
  • Check for odd shapes (the "hourglass effect") that may have unintentionally been created as you composed the letter