We’ve all been there—you send out a memo or brief to your colleagues before a meeting, and when it’s time to discuss… No one’s actually read it. Bummer, right?
We get it—plain text docs can be boring.
You may be tempted to add pizzazz through imagery or interesting visuals, but here’s the thing: the wrong kind of visuals can actually turn people away from your material.
So how do you make people actually read your Word docs, even if you’re not a swanky designer? Here are 10 deadly Word Crimes to avoid if you actually want people to read your documents.
1. Using Comic Sans, for anything
It’s not just OCD designers who care about fonts; most people truly hate Comic Sans. We’re serious. It immediately gives your documents a childish or antiquated feel (or both) and should be avoided at all costs. If you’re not convinced, there’s a whole treasure trove of information for anyone interested. Read it at length.
2. Using low-res images
There’s a reason why people make fun of pixel art (hint: it’s not because it’s easy on the eye). There is maybe nothing worse than a low-resolution image blown up to a pixilated mass that starts to resemble a Chuck Close painting. Please, for the sake of your colleague’s eyesight and your professional dignity, use better quality images.
3. Image inequality
Typically stock photos have been about as diverse as the audience at a U2 concert, but that doesn’t mean that’s what people want to see. For people to identify with the subjects of your images, look for equal representation—of gender, race, age, etc.—especially when representing traditional roles. It’s not cool for every photo of a “boss” to depict an older white male, and it’s just not an accurate depiction of the workplace anymore.
4. Not using images – boring!
There’s a time and place for images—true. Maybe you don’t want to fill half of your one-page memo with unnecessary photos. But if you have the opportunity to add imagery, doing so makes your work memorable and keeps people engaged. Perky images means no more snooze time for Frank the accountant.
5. Using too many images
At the same time, too many images can hurt your work. Less is more when it comes to things like wasabi, Celine Dion, and in-text visuals. If the main focus of your work is the written text, a few key visuals that support your message is much more powerful than a lot of images that compete with it.
6. Using unlicensed images
Bad, bad, bad. Just, you know, illegal. But even from a moral standpoint, you want to give hard-working photographers and artists the credit and compensation they deserve, right? Luckily, Pickit works directly with designers and photographers, so you can be sure that all of our images are ready for picking.
Want access to royalty-free images? Get the free app to bring your docs to life.
7. Too many colors
Is there such a thing as PTSD from early-2000’s emails? We think so. All of those rainbow-colored forwarded chain emails from Aunt Kathy have still got us reeling. Do your readers a favor and stick to one or two colors—more than that and you risk looking both unprofessional and stuck in what may be the Internet’s worst epoch.
8. Too many fonts
If you speak another language, or even operate within different cultural groups, you’ll recognize the idea of “code-switching.” Well, think of using different fonts as a kind of visual code-switching. A couple of fonts helps signal to your reader that you’re moving to a different kind of text, but too many becomes disorienting. You want to give your readers a roadmap, not send them into a maze.
9. Cheesy Clipart
Who could forget Clippy the Paperclip, who creepily watched you type in Microsoft Word? Luckily, Clippy’s long gone now, and to replace him and his cheesy friends there are tasteful icons and illustrations to choose from. Pickit’s built in service provides you with loads of built-in icons to help you get your point across, without freaking anyone out. Launch Pickit Free Images in PowerPoint or Word and look for our Better Than Clipart collection for free clipart images to make your work stand out.
10. Being too enthusiastic!!!!
Using too many exclamation points is the verbal equivalent of having sweat stains under your armpits: we’ve all been there, but honestly, it’s time to get your eagerness under control. One per document is fine, but as with images, less is more. Be strategic about what really merits the extra emphasis.
That was 10 things not to do when you're working in Word, but let's flip it around for a quick recap, looking at what you should do instead.
- Use a classic font (such as Helvetiva, Futura, Gill Sans or Rockwell)
- Use images
- But make sure they're high-res
- And don't use to many
- Also, make sure they're licensed
- And add some racial/gender diversity
- Consider adding some tasteful icons such as these
- Stick to a couple of colors
- Stick to a couple of fonts (at most)
- And go easy on the exclamation points
With these tips you should be able to step up your Word game and turn your coworkers’ dread into excitement. We figure, if you're going to create the doc in the first place, you may as well make the most of it and make your work matter.
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