When creating a professional document, it is very important that you make sure your document is free of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and prose. Keeping your documents free of errors is important, but an error free document does not mean that it is necessarily a convincing one.
In todays business world, the art of being persuasive in professional writing is a necessary skill that everyone should have. In order to be more persuasive in your writing, you must employ the use of user-centered design. This post from BogieLand.com has a great description of what user-centered design is and the bonuses that it can give. It gives six-step list of how to make your websites, documents, and products more user friendly and accessible. From my last post, you can see that user-centered design is important to make you appear more credible and professional in your communication with others. In order to make an effective document, you must create it with the end-user in mind. You are not creating something for yourself, you are creating something for others to read and then subsequently be convinced or get the information that you intended them to receive. As well as knowing your audience, you must actually apply this idea of user-centered design to your documents. Purdue OWL lists three ways to apply user-centered design to your work by altering your document design, information design, and sentence design.
User-friendly documents are extremely important in today’s business world. If it is a website, it should be easy and logical to navigate. It does not need to be dumbed down so that a child could access it, but it should be easy enough for people to get what they want out of it. Things like adding a table of contents, headings, and breaks all seem like trivial acts, but they make a document much easier to navigate and understand. If a reader does not understand something you wrote, it is much simpler to go to the index and find the section again rather than having to scroll or flip through the entire document again.
White space is an excellent method of making your document look better and more importantly, read better. I thought that this blog post makes some very good points as to why white space is so important in design. It goes into great detail how white space affects the way that we, as readers, are influenced by purposeful use of white space. It can help with attention, comprehension, legibility, and overall look of a document. While it can help immensely, overuse of white space is a big mistake by making it look like you really did not do much or that everything is just too spread out. Making use of white space can impress your boss and make your work that much better.
As well as designing your professional documents, designing the information included is equally important. It is necessary to include information design because you must realize what information you do and do not need. If you are sending a document to the CEO of your company who probably has not done hands-on financial modeling in 30 years, it might be best to leave out a good amount of the very detailed technical jargon and just give him or her the facts. Adding informative headers and breaks also strengthen your writing by adding clarity and helping the reader identify what they are reading and letting them know where they are at in the document.
Sentence design may be one of the best and easiest ways that you can improve your ability to convey information. Complex and awkward sentences do not effectively share information and they can leave the reader extremely confused. A lot of times, the simplest fix for awkward sentences is to read your sentence aloud. If you do not understand your sentence when you read it out loud, the reader is surely not going to understand that sentence when reading it in their head. Go forth and be understood.