Make sure your article looks tidy and well-presented

There’s more creating a professional, high quality article than just perfect spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.

How you organise and present your article is crucial - its layout must be pleasing to the eye.

We’ll tell you why:

When you present an article that looks unattractive, complicated, messy and/or confusing, the rest of the team will suffer. As a writer, your work is often the starting point for an entire process.

That includes:

  • The Content Manager: This person is usually the first in the team to see your article. They might take a quick glance. Does the layout and presentation of your work make a good first impression?
  • The Subeditor: This person is usually the next in line to see your article. Their job is to check your work for grammatical errors. Wading through a confusing, disordered, sloppy layout will affect their ability to do their work quickly and cost-effectively.
  • The Web Developer: After your content manager has approved your work, and the sub-editor has fixed your grammatical errors, the web developer then needs to publish it online. If you have made careless layout errors these will get transferred through to the blog.

Learn how to present well-organised and attractive looking articles. It’s important.

1. Use Heading Styles in Hierarchy - H1, H2, H3

To do this: start with your H1 and work your way down in importance to the H2, H3, H4 and so on.

Naming headings in hierarchy makes your article scanable.

Moreover, it’s an important on-page SEO factor. When your headings flow in hierarchy, search engines can easily tell what your article is about.

That’s because they recognise the contents of the headings as more important than the rest.

Below is a screenshot of an article that was written without following proper heading hierarchy. Take a look.

Now, watch this video to learn how to add heading styles in hierarchy.

Use Consistent Spacing Between Lines and Paragraphs

A lot of white space can kill the flow of your article and make it look horrible. Whereas, consistent spacing makes your work look neat and orderly.

In this first screenshot, the writer included inconsistent spacing and random lines within the article. The overal look is pieces of text that look disorganised.

Would you want to read such an article on the internet? Chances are you wouldn’t.

Now, onto a good example. Take a look at the screenshot below.

The green arrows are all pointing to consistent spacings. The paragraphs also contain consistent line spacing. Aim for that when you write your articles.

Notice how consistent the spacing between lines and paragraphs is?

Align Paragraphs to the Left

Paragraphs aligned to the left look good and are easy to follow while reading.

The screenshot below shows some paragraphs indented and others not. You’ll agree with us that this piece looks awkward.

Here’s a video on how to align your text in Google Docs. Watch and learn.

Use Consistent Font Type and Size

Except for headings, stick to one font size. Your article will look good with a consistent font type and size. Preferably, use a 12-point font size because it produces the most readable paragraphs.

Here are some fonts that look good and professional on any article:

  • Arial
  • Century Gothic
  • Times New Roman

Place Images Between Paragraphs

It may be okay to place images inside a paragraph and allow the surrounding text to flow around it, and if your employer prefers it that way, then go ahead and do that.

But generally speaking, it can damage readability, especially in data-driven reports.

The safest option, particularly for graphs and charts and tables, is to put images in between paragraphs and keep them centre aligned. That way your images are never vying for attention with the surrounding text.

It also helps captions to stand out.

Break Up Text with Bullet Lists

Lists are good for breaking up walls of text and drawing eyes to important points.

Use numbered lists when counting a set of items (e.g. “the five attributes of a successful entrepreneur”) or when providing step-by-step instructions.

How to Wash A Dog

  1. Fill the tub with water
  2. Wet the dog
  3. Pour shampoo on the dog
  4. Rinse with fresh water
  5. Dry with a towel

If you moved the last point to the first position it wouldn't make sense to the reader. That's when you know it's correct to use a numbered list.

Use bulleted lists when you have a set of ideas or points that you want to make, but it doesn't matter to the reader what order they appear.

Reasons to Wash A Dog

  • Dirty paws are leaving marks on the floor
  • Smells bad after rolling in something dead
  • Skin is itching from allergens in the grass

If you moved the last point to the first position it wouldn't confuse the reader. That's when you know you should use a bullet list instead of a numbered list.

Don’t Overuse Bold

Bold is used to highlight certain parts of important text in order capture the readers’ attention on that particular point. But never an entire article and rarely an entire phrase or sentence.

Use bold on phrases or words that would be of great interest to the reader. Or perhaps it's a point that you REALLY want to make sure the reader notices.

Do not use bold as a substitute for heading formatting.

Pay Attention to Small Details

  • Remove double spacing between words and letters
  • Missing a space? Make sure you have a space at the end of a sentence.
  • Don’t change fonts to emphasise a word. Instead use bold or italics.
  • Don’t underline words unless they are links. If you underline normal words, readers are likely to assume that they are links.
  • Minimise use of ALL CAPITALS. Shouting is not a professional tone of voice.

In summary

Here are two articles:

  • One is presented professionally
  • The other is awkward and full of mistakes which we’ve highlighted.

Compare the two and learn what should do and shouldn’t do when presenting your article for review by a manager, subeditor or for publishing by a web developer.

This document looks good:

This document is poorly presented: