I recently led a business writing workshop for a group of writers who had very complex information to share with their readers. Wisely, they used headings throughout their documents, so their readers could scan to find information quickly.
Unfortunately, the headings were not placed well. Each heading was the same distance from the information above it as below it. So the formatting didn't make a strong visual connection between the parts that belonged together.
This sentence and the following lines illustrate the formatting they used, which doesn't work.
Besides not making a strong visual connection, double-spaced headings stretch out a document unnecessarily.
Below is an example of stronger formatting, with the heading just above the content it introduces.
Effective business writing is made up of clear, concise sentences. Experts have found. . . .
You can also guide your reader with run-in headings, which appear on the same line as the content they introduce, like this:
Sentence Structure. Effective business writing is made up of clear, concise sentences. Experts have found. . . .
The writers I worked with in class decided on run-in headings for their documents. They were all smiles about the difference in readability that small change made.
Do you have tips on better formatting of complex messages? Please share them.