Friday, September 4, 2009

What is a Good Document?

Documents are important as they represent a body of information, designed to communicate. Thus, a good document will contribute to the success of conveying the specific purpose and message. There are many types of documents, such as prototypical, books, functional, non-classical, and many more.

Good documents consist of a good combination of texts and visuals. The considerations of texts / writing are such as typefaces, colours, language efficiency, and layout. According to Putnis and Peteline (1996, p. 224), it is essential that you know why you are writing and what your readers hope to find when you write in academic and professional contexts. Visuals are also prominent as they complement texts and sometimes tell a story.

Reep (2006, p. 135-136) also argues that a good document must include design principles such as balance, proportion, sequence, and consistency.

For example, this Microsoft Powerpoint slide is not balanced. The right is heavier than the left, thus it is not proportionate. In my opinion, the left side could be added with more words to balance up the document.

This is another example where this slide contains too much words, thus it looks crowded. In fact, Powerpoint slides should have short and direct sentences instead of long and windy ones. Moreover, there is insufficient white space in this document.

According to Putnis and Petelin (1996, p. 224-225), these steps will ensure that you creat a good document:

  1. Sensitivity to your purpose, readers, and context.
  2. Understand how readers read, comprehend, and act upon documents.
  3. Ability to research, structure, and sequence information.
  4. Working knowledge of the particular language.
  5. Skill in using problem-solving strategies to generate ideas, write, and refine your writing for your reader.
  6. Critical and analytical skills for reviewing your writing (and the writing of others).
  7. Understanding and practice of effective information and document design.
  8. Wordprocessing and desktop-publishing competence.
  9. Metaknowledge (knowing what you know) about writing.
  10. Acceptance that producing good writing is hard and takes a long time.


Putnis, P and Petelin, R 1996, Professional Communication: Principles and Applications, Prentice Hall, New York.

Reep, DC 2006, Technical Writing, 6th edn, Pearson/Longman, New York.