Twc Chapter 4 Layout And Design
Table of Contents


Workplace writing differs from other types of writing in that it stresses the visual aspect of literature, namely layout and design, to facilitate clarity and organization. Workplace writing has to be convenient for the reader. Headings and labels help readers skip around with ease to find the specific information they’re looking for. Especially when the document is explaining a complex subject, the information must be organized for the reader to comprehend what is written, otherwise the document has failed. In your writing, be ethical and tell the unbiased truth to the reader. This builds respectability for your work, albeit making the task more difficult. In the Rock the Vote example, organization cues (in this case, bolded words that summarize the main points of the document) help the reader know how to find specific information about voting without having to the whole document in detail. Content and organization are not independent elements of writing. The content, audience, and purpose affect the design of your document.

Document architecture is the arrangement of information in a piece of writing that determines its readability. If a visual corresponds with a certain part of text, put them within reasonable proximity of each other. Utilitarianism is a helpful approach to workplace writing that employs functional elements such as: titles, headings and subheadings, page numbers, a table of contents, and an index. It is also helpful to attract readers by making use of aesthetic elements, including pictures, background graphics, a color scheme, and icons. 

Where things are placed can affect how people process the significance of the information that is being communicated. The optical center of a page is a third of the length of the page from the top, which you may want to take advantage of when you want to focus the reader’s attention on something important. However, don’t overuse the optical center—mix it up a bit to prevent monotony. Separate elements of your document by “counterbalancing” it with something else as to not overwhelm the reader with too much of one thing. Symmetrical balance gives the page a sense of stability, permanence, and formality by keeping both sides of the document balanced. Asymmetrical balance uses more visually striking elements offset by less striking elements to add emphasis.

Relationships are more apparent to the reader when its components are close together in the document—this is referred to as connection. Duplication is staying consistent when using the same formatting schema for each element of the same level of importance. Variation is used to contrast elements of a document to define hierarchy, significance, and change. Variation and duplication are two techniques that are used in tandem to group things together, establish relationships, and show change.

Flow helps avoid confusing the reader by indicating a general path for their attention in examining a document. Adept use of this strategy will improve the comprehension of the reader and lessen the possibility that he will miss something important.

Document architecture is determined by:

  • Space – how much you need or how much is available
  • Time – how much work you can accomplish before it’s due
  • Money – the affordability of the resources necessary to make or distribute your document
  • Equipment – what supplies are available
  • Collaborators – how each person can contribute to the task
  • Readers – how they will perceive your document

Typography is how the text itself looks—style, size, emphasis, case, alignment, spacing, and justification. When determining the font style, the writer should consider the mood of the document (which depends on the audience, subject, and purpose) and the legibility of the font. Two fonts may be used to generate more emphasis, but adding more would create disorderliness. Most workplace-appropriate fonts are simple and not ornate. Serifs help text to be more readable in big chunks by making the letters flow from one to the next. However, some people find that serifs complicate the shape of the letters, so sanserif text is often used for headings and titles for a sleeker look. Features that must be considered in choosing the font size are legibility and practicality. Body text should be between 10 and 14 points, though some font styles may make the text look bigger or smaller than other styles. If the text will be read electronically, choosing a bigger size is advisable in case the reader has a screen with high resolution (which makes text look smaller). Consider increasing the size of the text to highlight something such as a heading, a quote, or an important piece of information. Be sure to make the size difference noticeable by at least two points difference. Emphasis can be shown by:

  • Boldface – attracts attention by increasing thickness of text (for headings, captions, titles, not really for body text)
  • Italics – modifies the shape of the words (for key terms and titles of complete works) and is less conspicuous than bold, so it’s preferable to be used in the middle of body text
  • Colors – alerts readers of something important (for headings, titles, and warnings), but don’t make it look like a hyperlink
  • Capitals – used for short urgent and important messages because it’s harder to read with less variation in text height

The author then touches on the use of titles and headings. He basically states that good headings make documents easy to navigate while the title is the most important label that the reader sees. Generally, short, descriptive phrases should be used. Titles and headings may be manipulated in terms of size and placement to draw attention to certain parts of the document.

Captions are also important elements of a document. Captions are descriptive, identifying labels for visuals. They should be used to provide context for the visual.

Headers and footers also serve to provide reference information. Instead of describing a visual, they provide reference information about the document. They generally provide information that wouldn’t flow into the main document.

In terms of organization, lists help emphasize groups of text in an organized manner. The different type of lists – numbered, bulleted – serve different purposes, for example, to present a procedure or a list of materials.

Line formatting is also important in fitting the need of the document. Line length should be made short enough to allow the reader to comfortably read. Long lines may overwhelm the reader with text. Line spacing, or leading, makes the pages easier to read by reducing widow and orphan words. Widow words are words in the end of a paragraph that start a new page. Orphan words are words that lead a paragraph at the end of a page. Finally, line justification allows the author to present different tones to the page, such as a formal tone with a full-justification.

White space is important in the overall flow of the document. White space can be used to direct attention by keeping similar ideas together, emphasizing certain points, and make the text look less cluttered.

Finally, physical properties should be considered in regards to what purpose the document is serving. Elements include:

  • Paper quality
  • Paper size
  • Paper weight
  • Document binding
    • Spiral bound
    • Paper bound
    • Book bound

For example, reports should probably be bound and use standard 8.5 x 11 paper.

Authors should cater their document elements to their audience, their writing style, and intent.


"Well-designed workplace documents allow readers to skim, jump from place to place, and refer back to information with minimal effort and time." (p. 81)

"In this sense document architecture refers to making visual rhetoric choices about the placement and layout of information on a page." (p. 83)

"You'll want to carefully consider your readers before beginning to create your document, and then you should think about how each choice in layout and design may affect their reception and understanding of your information." (p. 89)

"Titles and headings play in important role in page design because they forecast and introduce the subjects that follow" (page 92)

"As you design your document, consider how white space might increase the effectiveness of each element" (page 99)

"As a document architect, you'll be faced with…decision about the physical properties of your document…you should guide your decisions by what your customers…want and expect" (page 101)


Reading this chapter included a lot of information, much of which most students already know from school and experience reading documents that include these techniques for layout and design. One of the things that I thought were obvious are the use of variation and duplication to show hierarchy. We didn’t have to read this chapter to know that the subheadings of this page (Summary, Quotes, and Response) should have the same size and formatting or that the bulleted lists should have parallel structures. However, I (Kari) was not aware of the research conducted to find if serif or sans serif font was better for reading, which I found fascinating.

When I (Brian) read the same parts about subheadings and size/formatting that Kari was mentioning, I also felt that such standards were probably already studied by students since they began learning formal writing in middle school. However, some teachers may not have laid down the guidelines as clearly and easy to understand as Chapter 4 of TWC did. While I also found the information about the serif/san serif font interesting (I had never paid much attention to font before), I was also intrigued to find out how much subtle elements of documents can influence the mindset of the reader. For example, a common-sense thing like having similar pictures/tables/templates next to each other give the reader a sense of order and think more highly of the organization/person who designed the technical document. Apple is a company that does connection extremely well with its website.

I (Kari) wanted to comment on the analogies that were made between document architecture and building architecture. I thought they were very fitting, and give the reader a better idea of how important document architecture is by relating it to something much more familiar and physical. The use of actual documents to demonstrate examples of appropriate use and ineffective use were also a good way to ensure that the reader understands what the writer means, reducing ambiguity in the information. The writer even went into specifics by using arrows to point out good use of technique and flaws.

The fact that the textbook uses it’s own techniques adds to the reliability of the content. It used headings and subheadings with duplication and variation to define hierarchy, and it used different forms of emphasis in the recommended ways, as well as appropriate text sizes. While writing this annotated bibliography, I took the advice of the chapter and used italics to emphasize key words, formulated lists to organize information from the text to make it easier to understand, made subheadings with the same formatting and size.

I (Brian) also found the suggestions in regards to headings and text modifiers like boldface and italics extremely useful. In fact, I am in charge of document design and layout for our group technical instruction project. As a result, I looked through my website after reading Chapter 4 and found multiple places where having headings and bold text would make reading through our document easier because we had a lot of text and few paragraphs. I liked how the author was not just spewing out facts to use; the author used his own techniques and utilized headings and boldface to great effect in order to show us which terms were important and how the hierarchy of the document worked. For example, I found it easy to know what a paragraph I was reading was trying to accomplish - summarize, introduce, or describe - just based on the size of the heading before it.

In the section about Connection under Document Architecture, the writer mentions that related elements in a document should be close together. This reminded me (Kari) of Gestalt psychology, in which it is believed that the brain perceives stimuli in groups. When things are closer to each other, humans often assume that there is a relationship and process the information to signify something when put together.

Finally, I (Brian) did find the last section of the chapter the least useful for our class. Since most, if not all of the work we are doing is going to be published online, we don't have to pay as much attention to the physical aspects of our documents. Nonetheless, that information is useful for when we have to turn in reports for other classes, such as biology lab class, or in the future when we have to create technical instruction manuals.

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