Formatting Documents

Formatting Documents

Recently, I was talking to a business owner about business ups and downs and the best bits about running a business versus the worst. It was a lovely and positive conversation. One point that came up though got me thinking. She mentioned that a lot of her clients send her documents that are a mess. They have formatting issues all over the place but the client hasn’t realised. We discussed how a simple guide could help others to tidy up their writing and put forward professional documents.

It's especially hard when multiple people have worked on a document. They may have used a different font for their section, and it’s fairly obvious to pick up. But it also might be quite subtle. For example, they may refer to Wanneroo Business Association where as previously it was referred to as WBA. Or they may write “$30” where as previously someone else wrote it as “$30.00”. There may also be copy & paste issues, where someone didn’t paste in the correct format, and kept the original formatting.

Having document templates and style guides helps a lot. But even with these, formatting can get messed up.

There are many parts to the task when I am asked to proof read and format a document. There is of course the basic proof reading (checking for spelling errors, typos or incomplete sentences) but then there is a second stage for actually checking the flow and format of the document.

Here are some pointers when it comes specifically to checking the formatting:

Headings

Perhaps you want all Main Headings in Green 14-point Arial and sub headings in Black 11-point Arial. Specify this in your style guide and then once the document is finished, someone can check all the headings for you. If there has been any copy & paste involved, you want to make sure that a heading wasn’t accidentally put in a different colour or font because the person kept the original formatting when they pressed ‘paste’.

Paragraphs

You can also specify if the text should be left aligned or justified; and you can decide if you want single line spacing or something else. Another thing to check is font. It hurts my eyes when I read a document that has skipped format and suddenly goes to Times New Roman when previously it was Arial!

Taking a little bit of time to check the formatting of a document can help you to send out consistent and professional work each time.

Bullet Points

Here, you want to be checking that the actual type of bullet point is consistent (i.e. dots or arrows, or squares?) Are you putting full stops at the end of some points but not others? (The general rule is if each separate point has less than five words then you do not need a full stop – I could delve into a more technical explanation but for now just follow this basic rule!)

Other tips

Also, it’s worth checking shorthand and acronyms. E.g or EG? New York Police Department or NYPD?

Finally, check numbers (generally, one through to nine are written as words and after that as a number: 10, 11 and so on). Currency might have decimal points or other formats.

Taking a little bit of time to check the formatting of a document can help you to send out consistent and professional work each time.

Written by Rachel Boros

Freelance Writer, Proof reader and Virtual Assistant

Rachel founded SB Creations in 2012 and works with clients to offer services such as document creation, typing, data entry, social media management, proof reading and editing. She has a degree in Journalism plus experience in marketing and sales. Add a love of the written word and a desire to read and write, and this explains the passion behind the work.

EMAIL: rachel@sbcreations.com.au CONNECT: facebook.com/simplysbcreations


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