Plain language and design – five tips

The words in your email, brochure or report may be brilliant, but if your document is not supported by good design you’ll lose your readers from the start. Here are some tips for design that’s appealing to look at and easy to read.

Plain language and design: how a document looks is as important as what it says

Here are five tips to start thinking about how your documents look to your readers:

  1. Use a font that’s easy on the eye. Aim to make your font type, colour and size readable rather than decorative.
  2. Let your text breathe. Increase your margins and line spacing so that your content isn’t crammed onto the page.
  3. Left-align your text. Research shows that it is easier to read than justified text.
  4. Be bold with your headings. Use a bold or different-coloured font to make headings stand out.
  5. Borrow good design. Take a closer look at documents you find easy to read. What is it about their design that makes them so effective?


As always, the first prize is reader feedback. If you can, ask readers what they think about the look and feel of your reports, brochures or emails, and use their feedback to improve.