Creating professional looking documentation #smartdocumentation

Creating professional looking documentation is vital in today’s busy competitive commercial world. How many times have you started reading a document and picked up on spelling mistakes, bad grammar, dis-jointed sentences and then simply skipped to the end of the document, and discounted the company for any future business?   By creating professional looking documentation, you substantially increase your chances of securing business over your competitors, a well written, well formulated document, in a clear and concise format, will put you ahead of any competitor! . How do you do that? You follow a few simple steps.

Grammar Punctuation and Spelling are paramount! – Firstly, don’t rely on your spell checker and Thesaurus to pick up on errors, they are good, but not that good. Always make sure that your computer is set to English (United Kingdom) This can be done by selecting the ‘Review’ tab, and then Language, the drop down box will show all languages available, English (United Kingdom) needs to be selected as default. Even with the default language selected, do not assume that your spell checker will automatically pick everything up. There are always going to be words which are actual words but not the correct ones, such as ‘through’ when you meant to type ‘though’ or ‘noting’ rather than ‘nothing’ So, we would advise, that for business critical documentation, promotional literature, web content, tender responses etc, you look at employing the services of a professional company or a proof reader. grammer nerd A few hours service, may mean the difference between you securing the business or not!

Not too long and not too short – Just the right length! –Make sure that your document is the right length. All documentation is different, every document you produce has a different purpose, and sometimes, we are prone to getting carried away, especially if we are passionate about our products. Make sure you gauge it right, don’t repeat yourself in order to ‘flesh it out’ make your document succinct, readable and interesting to the reader. Cover the facts, give explanations and a call to action if necessary!

Tone is important to the reader! – Obviously, when formulating documentation, the tone of the language within is important to the reader. Sometimes there is a tendency to appear light-hearted to appeal to some readers, make sure that if a light-hearted tone is used, it should only ever be used in something like a blog, where humour can be included. It is important to use a formal tone in documents such as tenders and reports, this will always give the client comfort in knowing that they are dealing with a wholly professional company who is serious about their business! We would always advise against the use of slang in any documentation, be professional at all times.

Be consistent in your formatting! – Thoroughly check the document for consistent formatting. There is nothing more annoying than some part of the document being formatted one way and the formatting changing half way through! Avoid single lines of text under a new heading often called ‘orphans’ Whether using fully aligned formatting or centre of left alignments,  use it throughout!. Check that you have set your paragraph settings, so you are not reliant on lines ‘returns’ and extra lines between paragraphs. Make sure any headings are in consistent fonts sizes, and check that your headers and footers are consistent throughout the entire document with page numbers following sequentially. crooked table If you are using tables within your document, make sure they are aligned, poorly aligned tables can throw an entire documents formatting out!  Make sure you are using an appropriate font, avoid fonts fancy fonts, or comic fonts.  When using corporate branding, make sure you follow the branding guidelines, use correct sizes, colours and fonts this give a wholly uniformed, consistent and professional look to the documents.

Are your hyperlinks working! – If you are including hyperlinks in your document, make sure you have inserted it properly. For instance by inserting a hyperlink for Beed Virtual, I highlighted the text, Beed Virtual, and clicked on the ‘insert’ tab from there I chose the option ‘links’ and then ‘hyperlink’. In the box at the top you will see your chosen text to link to, and in the address box at the bottom you add your full email address, this can be copied and pasted – http://www.beedvirtual.co.uk this way, the text is highlighted and the link is inserted correctly.  error2 If you simply ‘hard return’ the web address, you are likely to create an unusable link! Always check your hyperlinks are working before you publish/send the document.

Photos!! – Some documents, particularly blogs benefit from photo’s and having a visual impact, but choose your photo’s wisely. Often, statistical graphs and images have a positive impact, but try to avoid using fun images, or clip art style images. Make sure the images or screen grabs are of a good quality and are of a high enough resolution for a good print quality.

Fact not fiction!!! – Always, always, always ensure your document is factual. Never ‘overblow’ statistics, always research your subject to ensure you have the facts. It can be a very costly process in more ways than one, if your document is found to be less than 100% factual and will lead to questions, and possible reprinting and retraction.

These are just a few suggestions on how to make sure your documentation is professional. Beed Virtual regularly work with clients on designing new and company documentation, standardising existing documentation and tenders and tender management. If you feel this is something you would like to discuss with us, please feel free to email us bev@beedvirtual.co.uk

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