With words and images inextricably linked in our information-driven workplaces, it’s essential that the person responsible for producing the words (the wordsmith) and the graphic designer work as a team.
Each player will view the publication from a different perspective - the wordsmith from the readability point of view, the designer from its visual appeal.
Wordsmiths can become truly obsessed with the finer details of written style such as italics, hyphenation and heading hierarchy. This can result in many rounds of corrections for the graphic designer.
To help create a perfect ‘marriage’ between wordsmith and graphic designer, there are a few simple things you can instruct your graphic designer to do.
1. Switch off the auto hyphenation. Automatic hyphenation often results in three or more consecutive lines that end in a hyphenated word, particularly if the column width is narrow. Too much hyphenation reduces readability.
2. Don’t leave single lines at the top and bottom of columns or pages. Two or more lines are acceptable; one is not.
3. Follow the heading hierarchy. Within the document there are likely to be main headings and subheadings. The relative weighting of the headings helps the reader navigate the content. Mixing up the heading hierarchy changes the structure of a document and reduces readability. It’s the wordsmith’s responsibility to make the hierarchy clear to the designer.
4. Follow the heading style. The two most common heading styles are title case (for example, The Power of Language) and sentence case (for example, The power of language). Title case headings are usually reserved for the main title of a book, publication or report. The contemporary style for all other headings is sentence case. The wordsmith is responsible for setting the heading style and communicating this to the graphic designer.
5. Expect several rounds of corrections. Although a good wordsmith will try and ensure the content is complete, proofed and signed off by management before graphic design, it’s inevitable there will be amendments and corrections following layout and design; for example, figures may have changed and need to be updated. A final proofread is essential following layout. Once the proofreading is complete, sitting side-by-side with the graphic designer and doing each amendment together may be the quickest and easiest approach.
A strong working relationship between wordsmith and graphic designer will help produce the perfect balance of words and images. The result can truly transform your publication, increasing both its visual appeal and its readability.
Patricia Hoyle, Concise Writing Consultancy, is a writer and editor specialising in government and corporate publications.