Everyone intuitively knows how important it is that written text is laid out in a well-organised manner.
However, far too often, the aesthetic aspect takes precedence over the functional – usually because the writer has no idea how important correct layout is.
That is why I want to briefly point out the different effects layout has on a reader. In this blog article, I offer four scientifically proven reasons to devote more time to correctly designing your text. This is partially intended as an introduction to a series of forthcoming blog articles which describe best practices for creating work instructions and procedures.
1. Less initial resistance
A 2008 study by Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz proved that the more difficult a text or instruction was to read, the more difficult the reader thinks the topic will be. Text that is poorly structured and laid out can therefore give the reader the impression that they need to be a nuclear engineer just to understand the content.
2. Higher reading speed and lower cognitive load
Reading speed is also related to the design and organization of text. Poor layout not only slows the rate at which the text can be read, it also requires more effort to be able to understand well what is written. This extra cognitive load leads more quickly to fatigue.
3. Increased retention
How much of a text we recall also depends on its design. A study by Gasser, Boeke, Haffeman, & Tan from 2005 proved that using a specific font increased retention by 9%. The research method used involved administering the test to a mixed audience of university students. However it was also determined that the retention effect increased even more for less learned test persons or those who read less frequently. Therefore, it is even more important to use an appropriate font for employees who are required to remember work instructions.
4. Finding a passage of text more quickly
A clear structure and well-organised layout makes it easier to find a particular passage of text again more quickly. The speed at which something can be found again is of utmost importance, for example, in instructions and reference manuals used for emergency situations. A good example of this is the checklists and instructions pilots use in exceptional circumstances. A future blog article will explain different recommendations in to allow you to write text better and more clearly. So, keep an eye on this blog or you’ll miss them!