Don’t focus only on writing great presentation copy. You may know how to introduce people to that copy by taking some pointers from print. You may have learned a bit about presentation layout and design. Now let’s look at how to make the text itself look like it was designed by a professional. This is especially important when creating a slidedoc, which pairs copy with visuals.
Professional designers use sophisticated design software to make copy easily consumable. While PowerPoint® and Keynote® don’t have all the capabilities that come with professional print design, there are a few simple steps you can take within presentation software to achieve a professional look.
Putting in this extra effort will not only make your text look nicer, it will make it easier to consume; which is an important factor when trying to get your message across to readers.
Presentation Formatting like a Pro
The first rule of presentation formatting like a pro is staying consistent. Laying out your text isn’t just about making it fit or making it pretty; it’s about making it consumable.
The ideal line length for text is based on the physiology of the human eye. At normal reading distance the arc of the visual field is only a few inches. Research shows that reading slows and retention rates fall as line length begins to exceed the ideal width. This may be caused by one of two problems:
Columns are too wide: If lines of text are too long, your readers get lost when their eyes return to the left side. The long length makes it difficult to determine when the text starts and ends. Do not use the full length of your slide; break your pages into columns.
Columns aren’t wide enough: If lines of text are too short, the eye has to travel back and forth too often. This is tiring on the eye and frustrating to readers who are unable to read a complete thought.
Set your columns and font size so that there are between 50 and 70 characters per line of text (or 12 to 15 words). This is the optimal length for legibility and will significantly increase the readability of the online or printed text.