Why are readers looking at documents based on the style ?
The reader may be :
u reading it in a sustained manner and seeking to extract meaning from the majority of the document. In this case the format may be longer passages of prose using the conventional one theme per paragraph.
u reading it intermittently, in which case it is best if the information is in short passages , with whitespace or illustrations that help the reader find their location again quickly. It can also be easier here to use narrower columns ( like newspapers ) if the software supports it.
u cross referencing and commenting on the material and therefore needing plenty of whitespace, numbering and other indications so that insertions and notes can be made easily; and sections can be found again at will.
u reading it under protest. In this case the style will need to be clear, the text relatively short and the overall impact must be of a confident author presenting material.
One reasonable guideline for the use of headings is given in the table below. This allows the Headings to stand out from the rest of the text and act as signposts.
Headings tend to look better if they don't use a font with serifs ( "ticks" which are used to join letters together ) as these look "forced" in larger font sizes.
Organising headings so they are to one side of the text give the effect of indexing the text rather than organising the text into coherent subsections. There is a deliberate choice to be made by the user and real indexing is comparatively rare - in corporate documentation.
Indentation and alignment
Achieving consistent indentation is a really fast way to improve the overall appearance of a document. In principle most blocks of text should be aligned vertically underneath one another. If simple bulleted lists are used then the bullet should appear vertically below the left hand edge of a non bulleted line with the text indented a small amount. A similar consideration applies to numbered lists.
Sometimes the indentation may be adjusted so that the first line in a single paragraph either projects to the left of the following lines ( hanging indent )
This is a hanging indent paragraph with a number of words to show how successive lines will look with this appearance.
or is to the right of the following lines ( left indent )
This is a left indent paragraph with a number of words to show how successive lines will look with this appearance.
Both of these can look alright in the appropriate circumstances ( long prose sequences ) but neither work well if there are bulleted or numbered lists because the bullet or number doesn't stand out properly from the rest of the plain text.
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