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FALL 201 4
Designing Documents for
International Audiences: Basics
Weve already talked about several rules to make documents
more approachable and scannable, these rules also make
documents easier to read for everyone:
Modal redundancy: Add well-labeled, self-explanatory images,
infographics, etc., so your reader can have access to your content in
multiple ways.
Include short but informative subheadings separating each section.
Number your sections as well. (Roman numeralsCapital
lettersArabic numerals)
Include bulleted and numbered listswhenever possible, make bullet
points brief or complete sentences; try not to make them in-
between/incomplete sentences.
Add page numbers after 2 pages
Create a table of contents after 10 pages.
For more specifics about writing for Chinese and Indian audiences see
Purdue Owls site: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/5/25/
Writing Style
Avoid Obvious Americanisms: Avoid slang, metaphors,
jokes, cultural references that your audience isnt like to
Present tense: When possible, write in the active present
tense. (Think about learning Spanish, French, German,
whatever, the simplest tense/first tense you learn in
present). If you need to write in simple past tense or
future, thats ok, but try to avoid more complicated
tenses ing, have done, etc.
Keep sentences short: Keep sentences short and concise
with a simple subject and a simple action/verb
(whenever possible use a concrete subject and verb vs. a
pronoun): It is cold outside vs. the weather is cold.
Writing Style
Word choice: Stick with common concrete verbs and
nouns. Now is not the time to stretch your vocab
Write more formally: Avoid contractions; avoid
parentheticals (either inside parentheses, commas,
or dashes).
Numbers: Use metric whenever possible, use
Document Design
Stick to two fonts maximum per document (not including
italics, bolds, and size changes)
Sans Serif: Fonts without the feet. Good for reading on the web;
best for short documents; good for section headings.
Serif: Fonts with feet. Best for printed text and reading long texts
Create styles for headings and subheadings and bullets and use
them uniformly. The paint brush tool is the easiest way to do
this though you can create styles and save them if you wish.
If you are creating a document that might be printed or
photocopied (especially resumes) make sure you test out what
it looks like printed.
Document Design
Dont double-space after periods. Fonts are now designed to
put extra space there automatically.
Dont underlineits outdated, use bold (less common) or
italics (more common) for emphasis.
Em dashes (used to act as a comma or parenthesis to separate
out phrases) vs. hyphens (used to join words in a compound
construction) vs. En dashes (used to connect numbers in a
range or that are related. From 10-34).

Document Design
Either indent every
paragraph or place a
blank line between
paragraphs. Dont do
Creating typographic
Space between divisions:
Add more space between
big sections (between
sections) than you would
between smaller ones
(between paragraphs).
Document Design
Have different levels of headings in different sizes of fonts or
typefaces. I usually recommend using a sans serif for headings
and a serif for body text and not changing the font size which
can risk looking immature.

Document Design
See scannabilty page
Use alt-text for images: Just like in web-design, you should
add alt-text to all your images and write a brief description of
what is in the image so that readers using screen-readers can
have access to those pictures. Format PictureAlt Text (You
can add these descriptions in your figure captions instead if
youd like but often your figure captions will not simply
describe what is in the image but analyze it).
With a screen reader blank spaces sound like blank, blank,
blankto avoid this dont format your document by using
the space bar, instead, use tabs.
Color choice: Design with the greatest color contrast possible.

Document Design
For formal letters, when possible, use stationary from the
organization you are representing or from the university.
Dont go below 10-point font and .8 margins (this is especially
for resumes which one often finds oneself wishing they had
more space).
Stick to common fonts: Times New Roman is still king for
large amounts. Arial is queen of the sans serifs.
Experiment with MicrosoftWord templates. There are
hundreds of free templates beyond the ones in Word:
Microsoft word pre-existing templates and color pallets are also
good choices