Saturday, April 18, 2009

What is a Good Document?

Words complement visuals in an effective document (Reep 2006) and helps readers read efficiently, in addition to emphasising the most important content (Anderson cited in Putnis & Petelin 1996, p. 254).  

I will use both my group presentation and individual presentation slides to demonstrate how the application of good design principles and the usage of good writing result in a good document.  

Putnis and Petelin (1996) advocate the balance of visuals (graphics) and text within the page. Failure to create this balance would result in an overabundance of either negative (white space) or positive (text, visuals, title) space.  I did not fully adhere to this rule of balance for my group presentation slides, resulting in Figure 1.      

Figure 1

Clearly, there is no text to balance the image.  This is rectified in my individual presentation slides (as shown in Figure 2), where there is a column of text and a column of an image; thus, the visuals and text here have balanced weight, making them more attractive to the audience.

Figure 2

Dabner (2003, p. 58) also notes that 'the greatest contrast is between black type on white background'.  I used a soft peach background on my group presentation slides (Figure 3), and while it was soothing to the eye, it resulted in dull slides.      

Figure 3

Therefore, I used a white background for my individual presentation slides (Figure 4) and this resulted in a high contrast that made the text clear and the images vivid.  

Figure 4

Besides that, Evans and Thomas (2004, p. 157) state that 'illustrations can also help an audience visualize something that can't be seen or better understand something that's complex'.  Inadequate illustrations were used for the group presentation slides (as shown in Figure 5), resulting in abstract concepts being explained in 'complicated, boring text' (Dabner, 2003, p. 70).

Figure 5

Therefore, more illustrations were used in the individual presentation slides (Figure 6 and 7) to aid the audience's understanding without the need for lengthy textual explanations.  

Figure 6

Figure 7

Good writing is highly subjective as there are many forms of writing, such as the scientific and the technical, where information is relayed 'directly and literally' (Rothman 2005).  Rothman (2005) also advocated that writing be 'specific and include all relevant details'. 

Therefore, I applied all these principles in my slides in order to create a good document in terms of design and writing, resulting in a greater understanding, and acceptance, of it by my audience.


Dabner, D 2003, Design and layout: understanding and using graphics, Quarto, London.

Reep, DC 2006, Technical writing: principles, strategies and readings, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.

Evans, P & Thomas, M 2004, Exploring the elements of design, Delmar Learning, New York.

Putnis, P & Petelin, R 1996, Professional communication: principles and applications, 2nd edn, Prentice Hall, Sydney.

Rothman, S 2005, "What makes good scientific technical writing?", Associated Content, viewed 17 April 2009,

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