Four Steps to a Professional Document

Almost everyone who works or has worked in an office environment has used some type of word processing software at one time or another – some of you may even work with such a program almost all day, every day. So, those of you who do are likely aware that using software like Microsoft Word allows us to create polished, professional documents in a (potentially) minimal amount of time. We can type the contents of a document, adjust the margins and spacing, create tables, and even add graphics. You may not have considered that, in order to make you that much more efficient at creating your documents, there are four golden rules to follow before you begin:

  • Planning
    Just like most everything else in life, planning saves you time and effort. Figure out what it is you want to say and then say it clearly. Include enough information to achieve that purpose without overwhelming your reader. Organize your ideas in a thoughtful, logical way; sometimes, working your way backwards can help. Decide how you want your document to look – the type of document you’re writing (e.g. business letter or research paper) will be the determining factor, of course.
  • Creating and Editing
    Once you’re past the planning stage, you’re ready to start typing. Here comes the hard part – try to hold off on editing and even formatting (step 3) until you’ve finished typing the document. Once you’ve entered your content, you’re ready to edit. Keep in mind that spell- and grammar check will only get you so far; your document should ALWAYS be fully read with human eyes prior to completion. If possible, get a colleague to look it over for a sanity check. It’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to miss something if you’ve been slaving away at it for hours on end.
  • Formatting
    How you format your document will depend on what type of document you’re working on; however, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. I recently wrote a post about formatting your Excel workbook, in which I talked about the most important aspect of the workbook – the data. Well, the same rules apply when it comes to formatting your Word document. There’s nothing wrong with making your documents “pretty”, but you want to make sure you’re not overwhelming the content of the document itself. Try to avoid garish colours – they can sometimes annoy your reader and make your document difficult to read. Ensure your document is readable on both black-and-white and colour printers. You also want to make sure you understand your printer’s limitations; colours that look great on your monitor may not print quite as well.
  • Printing or Distributing Online
    Before you go to print, display your document in your print preview window. If you print right away before previewing, you risk wasting time and paper. With print preview, you can immediately see how the page will look printed and can adjust scaling, margins, spacing, and paper size as necessary.

Let us know if you’ve got any tips or tricks of your own! Send us an email:

Katie Caplan
Office Manager & Instructor
Sector Learning Solutions


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