The ‘Look’ of Readability

Question: When it comes to readability, how much emphasis should you place on the “look” of your copy?

Answer: A LOT.

The impact of many a proposal with otherwise decent quality (even compelling) copy is undermined by the presentation of that text and the pages on which it is laid out.


  • Overly lengthy paragraphs comprising an unwieldy number of sentences.
  • The choice of an under-sized type font.
  • An “unprofessional”-looking type font.
  • An overly ragged right-hand margin.
  • Lack of headings, subheadings, or other forms of design feature to break up large blocks of text.
  • Too-narrow margins.
  • Too-wide margins.
  • General lack of attention to detail.

A page of copy that is optically hard-going for the recipient not only detracts from the impact of the words themselves, it also detracts (even if subconsciously) from the general receptivity by the reader to the content’s message.

In a competitive scenario, you need every element of a bid, tender or proposal going for you.

In the instance of a proactively submitted proposal, you need to reach out and grab the recipient by the eyeballs (in an appropriate way, of course), since they have no obligation to read your document.


  • Use white space to create a clean, sophisticated, easy-read look wherever possible and appropriate. Just don’t go overboard so that things look “gappy” or so that you look light-on with your content.
  • Err on the side of shorter paragraphs, that focus on a single element, where possible.
  • Endeavour to use a balanced combination of long with short sentences in your paragraphs.
  • Don’t try to meet word- or page-count restrictions by cramming too much onto a page or by compromising on the size of the font. Clever – and ruthless, if necessary – editing should be your preferred strategy.
  • Use subject-appropriate / context-appropriate / audience-appropriate visual / design elements to break up your copy and keep it visually interesting. This includes headings and subheadings.
  • Go overboard on attention to detail. Actually, there is no “overboard” when it comes to attention to detail.