5 Tips: How to make Word documents look good

Updated 24 Aug 2019

Yes, it's possible. Not ideal, but entirely possible. Especially if you're a small business and trying to save money by doing a few things yourself. If this is you, pay attention! These 5 tips I'm about to give you will transform your Word doc from the ordinary to something very pleasant indeed.

1. Use a cover page

Start with a blank page, go to Insert > Cover Page and select a design that will work best for you. You can then customise the background image and any colours that don’t fit in with your branding. It’s an easy, automatic starting point and will help your document make a great first impression.

2. Customise your margins

1.5cm on all sides is a good starting point if you have a lot of text to fit onto the page. Increase to 2.0cm if you think your amount or type of content needs more space. In Publishing Layout View, your text doesn't automatically line up with the margins, so make sure that your text and image frames sit directly on those lines if your design goes right out to the edges.

3. Be fussy about alignment

This is something that professional graphic designers pay a lot of attention to and any DIY designer like yourself who wants to achieve a professional look should do the same. The rule is quite simple: when you place something on the page – be it text or image – make sure it aligns with something. This could be another text or image frame, or the page margins, or your logo in the top right corner...you get the drift. Select the frame then use your arrow keys to fine tune. Whatever you do, DO NOT overstep those page margins you set up in Step 2!

4. Keep your fonts simple

Unless you really have an eye for good design, I recommend you stick to using just one typeface. The trick to making this look good is to use your chosen typeface in a variety of sizes and weights. The aim here is to achieve that all important hierarchy of information which will make your document easy and pleasant to read. Your title can be gigantic and imposing; your headings, large and bold; then your subheadings; and lastly, your body copy should be smallest and preferably left aligned, not justified.

Title: Helvetica Light 36 Heading: Helvetica Bold 18 Subheading: Helvetica Regular 14 Body copy: Helvetica Light 10

Title: Helvetica Light 36
Heading: Helvetica Bold 18
Subheading: Helvetica Regular 14
Body copy: Helvetica Light 10

5. Tweak your line spacing

This really does depend on the size of your font and what comes before and after. Here's what I did for the above example: 2.0 after Title; 1.15 after Heading; 2.0 after Subheading; 1.0 for the body copy.

So, now it's your turn. Use my 5 tips and your next Word document will be the talk of the office!


Esther is a freelance graphic designer and blog writer based in Adelaide, South Australia.

5 Tips: How to get the most out of your graphic designer

If you're working with a graphic designer for the first time, keep in mind that good, effective communication (both written and verbal) is key to getting this vital collaboration off to a good start.


1. Meet your designer for a coffee

Well, I guess it's a bit like dating. If getting some great work done starts off with good communication, then make sure you and your chosen designer get along at least. You need to feel comfortable talking to your designer in person and over the phone at any time. Take note of their email responsiveness and manner: is he/she someone you can work with over the next few weeks and months? What's the vibe you're getting on whether or not this designer values you as a client and is willing to listen to your requirements and ideas?


2. Give your designer a proper brief

Even if you think you're telling them things that seem obvious to you, spell it all out in your brief! The more detail your designer has from you, the better he/she will be able to fulfill your expectations. If it's a branding project, give them background history, how the brand came to be, how you came up with the name, who your competitors are, other brands you admire and aspire to, keywords for the look and feel of your brand. You should even tell your designer if there are specific colours or shapes you really dislike. All the information you give your designer sets up a solid launchpad for their creativity, and will help them produce exactly what you have asked for and more!


3. Give your designer a timeframe

Creative people can take all day on one little thing; it's just the way they're wired. You need to give your designer the impression that you're not at all in a hurry (as pressure usually always stifles creativity). But you do have that event coming up on such and such a date and "it would be good" to have it done by then. That's all that's needed; a good designer will respond well to this and meet your timeframe.


4. Always offer positive feedback before the negative

A good designer always puts his or her heart and soul into any project they undertake. Remember, a lot of thought and energy goes into being creative! When you receive initial concepts in response to your brief, always start with the positive before moving on to the parts you don't like. It's not that all designers are fragile; some positive comments just help to keep your designer motivated to finish your project and keeps those creative juices flowing.


5. Take time to consider their concepts

Take the time to deeply consider the options your designer presents you with before offering constructive feedback. Remember point 4? They've put their heart and soul into this! If what you're seeing is a little different from what you were expecting, bear in mind that it might actually be better this way, or maybe it's just that the brief wasn't communicated so well at the start? Whatever the case may be, taking your time to properly weigh it all up will mean fewer rounds of revision for your designer, resulting in less expense for you, less frustration for both of you, and an end result you can both br proud of.

about the author

Esther is a freelance graphic designer and blog writer based in Adelaide, South Australia.