The second design element: paragraphs

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Slide 1

How paragraphs are formatted can impact readability. Documents that use blocked paragraphs are easier to read. Blocked paragraphs should not indent the first line, they should be left justified, and have one return (or white space) between each paragraph. Headings and subheadings should begin each section or topic in the document. Headings should be descriptive and provide clues to what information is included in the following paragraphs. Good headings serve as sign posts and help the reader scan longer documents to find the information they are looking for.

Slide 2

Here is an example of a brochure that uses blocked paragraphs. The first sentence of each paragraph is not indented. The paragraphs are left justified, with a jagged right margin. Paragraphs are separated by white space, and headings follow a “question and answer” format that makes the document easy to scan and navigate.

Slide 3

Here is another example of blocked paragraphs. Notice the descriptive headings.

Slide 4

A jagged left margin can have a negative impact on readability.

Slide 5

Some of the paragraphs in this document are indented, other are not. There is also is no white space between paragraphs. Compared to the previous example, this document looks more “text heavy” and the jagged left margin is not as clean as documents that use blocked paragraphs as previously described.

Slide 6

This is an example of a patient education sheet used at my organization. Notice the jagged left margin, which is most noticeable in documents with short paragraphs.

Slide 7

As part of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid demonstration project, we redesigned our patient education template to use blocked paragraphs. Notice that the bullet points line up along the left margin as well. This creates clean lines and the extra space between paragraphs and bullet points makes the document look less crowded and easier to read.

Slide 8

Another negative impact on readability are paragraphs that use short, non-descriptive headings and subheadings.

Slide 9

Here are some examples from some of our old patient education documents.

Slide 10

Here is another example. What does “contagion” mean to patients reading this handout? Wouldn’t a better heading for that section be “Impetigo is contagious?” Notice, too, that are headings and subheadings were not always consistent in format. And again you see a good example of how a jagged left margin makes your eye zig-zag through the document.

Slide 11

Here is an example of a document that not only doesn’t use good descriptive headings, but also doesn’t have a consistent format.

Slide 12

Another negative impact on readability is awkward spacing between lines of text.

Slide 13

Too little spacing between lines makes the text look squished together. Readers can lose their place and skip some of the text when the lines are too close together. Likewise, too much space between lines is awkward to read and readers can lose their place here, too.

Slide 14

Text should be left justified as shown in previous examples of blocked paragraphs. Text that is center, right, or full justified is harder to read because it interferes with the natural process of reading from left to right.

Slide 15

This is an example of a tri-fold brochure. The cover panel is on the right. Note the text in the middle panel (which is the back of the brochure) is center justified.

Slide 16

While center-justified text may be appropriate for a short block of text on the back of a brochure, longer passages and full paragraphs should not be center-justified.

Slide 17

Text that is justified on the right is more difficult to read. Compare the text that is left-justified with the text that it is the yellow box.

Slide 18

Text that is full-justified has straight edges on both the left and the right. To accomplish this, the space between letters and words is manipulated. This causes some of the letters and words to be pushed closer together, while creating unequal gaps of white space. Because of this, text that is full-justified is more difficult to read.

Slide 19

Use the design readability scorecard to evaluate how paragraphs are formatted in your document. Total the positive points and subtract the negative points to determine the document’s overall score for this design element.

Slide 1

2. Paragraphs Block paragraphs No indenting Left justified One “return” between paragraphs Headings and subheadings Descriptive (more than one or two words) Contrasting font

Slide 4

2. Paragraphs Negative impact on readability: Jagged left margin

Slide 8

2. Paragraphs Negative impact on readability: Jagged left margin Short, non-descriptive headings and subheadings

Slide 12

2. Paragraphs Negative impact on readability: Jagged left margin Short, non-descriptive headings and subheadings Awkward spacing between lines of text

Slide 14

2. Paragraphs Negative impact on readability: Jagged left margin Short, non-descriptive headings and subheadings Awkward spacing between lines of text Text that is centered, right justified, of full justified

Tags: design readability patient education documents health litereacy doug seubert

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