Better Type in Word and PowerPoint for Marketers

For all the marketers who are non-designers, but who also need to make your docs look good, here’s some simple typography tips that will make your Word docs and PowerPoint presentations look better.

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If you ask any designer how much they love working in Word and PowerPoint you’ll hear a lot of grumbles. We hate the programs and will try hard to convince you to let us do the project in InDesign. But sometimes it has to be in a Microsoft product.

We begrudgingly sit down and struggle with Word and PowerPoint’s weak and confusing type tools.

So for all the marketers who are non-designers, who need to make your docs look good, here’s some simple typography tips that will make your Word docs and PowerPoint presentations look better.

All these tips are adjusted in the “Paragraph” dialog box found under Format > Paragraph

Paragraph BoxLine/Paragraph Spacing

This is always my first “go to” when teaching non-designers how to make both Word and especially PowerPoint presentations look better. It’s subtle, but makes copy read easier. The trick here is to pay attention to line spacing (leading) and then the space in between paragraphs (space before and after).

Line spacing should be set looser than Word’s normal line spacing. Most people use the default line spacing of “Single” for their documents. That’s ok, but I’ve found if you give the document a little extra line spacing it reads easier.

You can do this two ways under “Line Spacing” in the Paragraph box

  1. Exact: Set your “Line Space” to “Exactly” and it will default to 12pt. Set the line space to three or four points larger than your body text size. For 10pt type I’d set the line spacing to 13pt or 14pt. You’ll need to set this for each font size you use. If you have 14pt type you’ll set the line spacing to 17pt or 18pt. This can be time consuming if you have many text sizes in your document. There’s a more global approach —“Multiple.”
  2. Multiple: Set your “Line Space” to “Multiple” and it will default to 3. That will be 300 percent of the font size — way too big and only something Microsoft could come up with. I’ve found 1.15 will works perfectly giving all your text a similar look to “exact” 10pt type with 13pt line spacing. Think of this as a percentage — 1.15 is equal to 115 percent, or an additional 15 percent of a line space.

Using one of these approaches will improve the look of all your body text. Next we’ll adjust the space between paragraphs.

Paragraph spacing, the space in between paragraphs, can be controlled both before and after a paragraph. Most people simply hit return twice at the end of a paragraph and add a line space to separate paragraphs. This is a simple and heavy-handed method. Here’s the better way to adjust this space.

  1. Space After will allow you to simply hit return once and the space after paragraphs will automatically be created. No need to hit return twice to create the space. In the “Paragraph” box set the “space after” to the space you’d like between your paragraphs. Start by setting it to the size of your type. It’ll be the same as hitting return twice. If your type size is 10pt, set the space after to 10pt. But now you can be subtler and add more or less space to get a better look.
  2. Space Before will allow you to add space before the paragraph. So what’s the difference between space before or after? Nothing really, it’s how you use it. I typically use “space after” for paragraph spacing. I use “space before” for separating headlines and subheads from the paragraph before it. This helps to separate sections apart from each other. An oddity with “space before” is it needs to be larger than the “space after” of the paragraph before it. If the “space after” is 10pt the “space before” of the paragraph below it has to be at least 11pt to have an affect. See the sample below.

The trick with “space before” and “space after” is to always be consistent how you use them. Don’t sometimes use “space before” to get the separation between paragraphs and then other times use “space after.” Otherwise you won’t know which to adjust from paragraph to paragraph. Be consistent.

Line and Paragraph SpacingBulleted Text

Here’s the next area that good typography can make a huge difference in readability. Word and PowerPoint’s standard settings are poorly thought out and actually make bulleted lists very difficult to read.

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

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