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.