Content marketers can reduce graphic design time and costs by setting formatting standards for text prepared by staff writers and freelancers.
Unnecessary text formatting can increase content marketing design costs and and cause frustrating delays when designers have to manually remove unwanted formatting from text written for ebooks and white papers.
A recent white paper, submitted by my client, required over 3 hours of “de-formatting time” before I could begin to lay it out! Lesson learned…
Encourage your staff and freelancers to add minimum of text formatting when preparing first drafts of articles, blog posts, books, and ebooks for content marketing.
Setting standards for consistent content formatting at the start of projects will save money and ensure faster project turnaround.
Do’s and don’ts of text formatting
Here are a few of the most important formatting mistakes to avoid:
- Do not indent the first line of paragraphs. Leave it up to your graphic designer to decide how to indicate new paragraphs.
- Do not press the Enter key twice at the end of paragraphs. This usually adds too much extra space between paragraphs; plus, the extra lines will have to be eliminated before formatting.
- Do not add graphic images to your drafts. Instead, indicate the location where the graphics should appear, noting the filename of the graphic.
- Do not format subheads by underlining them or adding bold or italics. Instead, either indicate heading level, i.e. H1) H2, or H3, in parentheses before the heading, or–better yet–use your word processor’s Text Styles feature, as described below.
- Do not draw or add borders or horizontal lines above or below headlines and titles. Whether created by underlining, or using your word processor’s drawing tools, these can be very time consuming for designers to manually remove.
- Do not manually add hyphens to adjust line endings. These will interfere with the page layout program later. Likewise, avoid using the Enter key to adjust line breaks in headlines.These can later cause unwanted gaps.
The following are some suggestions for those who preparing word-processed text for graphic designers:
- Do familiarize yourself with the basics of text styles. Remember that the text style used for preparing the text of your white paper may not be the final typeface, type size, type style, or line spacing your message will appear in. Learning how to apply the 3 most common text styles, Normal, H1, H2, and H3, will save your designer a lot of unnecessary work, and reduce the time required to prepare your manuscript for formatting.
- Do fine-tune the Normal text style. Change the Normal line spacing to 1.5 line or double-line spacing. This makes it much easier for you and your designer to review and proofread your document both onscreen and when printed. Adding 12 points of Space After paragraph formatting makes it easy to locate paragraph endings.
- Do add page numbers and revision dates to the headers and footers of your manuscripts. This can save a lot of frustration and time if you print out your document and the pages get out of order.
- Do create a style guide for your staff and freelancers. If you’re a content marketer, consider preparing a style guide for your staff. This will boost the efficiency of your designers for years to come. Update it frequently, and be sure to either put it online, or share with freelancers and interns.
Ask questions before you start to write
If you’re a freelancer, the above basics can help you avoid the most serious time-wasting mistakes.
Before you start to write for a new client, find out if your firm has a standards guide or copy guidelines for preparing text. The same is also true when preparing copy outside designers, printers, or book publishers. Each may have their own preferences.
Under-formatting is better than over-formatting!
It’s better to under-format your document, using just the basic Normal, H1, and H2 text styles, than to go overboard and create a manuscript that requires two hours of “formatting “clean-up” design time and fees before your graphic designer can get down to work.
If you’re a chief content officer or content marketing designer, share some of the manuscript formatting challenges you’ve had to clean up before you began to format an article, ebook, or white paper. Share your stories, and suggest additional formatting do’s and don’ts, as comments, below. View other content marketing topics here, including 7 Readability Tips for Designing Engaging Content.