Highlighting for Your Reader

Yesterday I taught Writing Tune-Up for Peak Performance at one of my favorite organizations in Bellevue, Washington. In the class, one of the topics we covered is the use of visual cues to make information stand out.

By visual cues, I am referring to headings, bold type, indenting, bullet points, numbered lists, and other formatting.

We looked at an example that was written as one big paragraph. Because nothing was highlighted in the paragraph, it took us long seconds to find basic information. Then we looked at another example with descriptive headings in bold type, lots of white space, and a numbered list. In this version, we could find information quickly.

Cathy, a manager in the class, had a good name for the formatted version. She called it "highlighting for the reader." Cathy compared the well-formatted version to a page marked with a yellow highlighter. Just like a text with information highlighted in yellow, documents that are formatted well allow readers to find information fast the first time, second time, and any time they read them.

Thanks, Cathy! From now on, I will remember your yellow highlighting whenever I use formatting to make information stand out.


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