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Writing Notes: Document Presentation
Here are some tips to bear in mind when writing and
presenting a document that
a piece of academic work.
Although the notes were put together
for students writing in the area of
language technology, they apply more generally to a wide range of
scientific and technical
writing. They may not be so appropriate for writing in arts and
- Give your documents sensible file names, especially when you
send them to other people. In particular, when you send a document to
another person, it's a good idea to include your name in the title:
receiving 50 documents titled 'proposal.doc' doesn't assist the
recipient much in file management. The same goes for documents
made available by other means, for example via a web site. So, you
might have something like 'Smith Honours Proposal.doc'.
- It's often useful to include a date in the title of a document,
especially when that document goes through multiple versions. The
best form of date to use is the 'YYYY-MM-DD' form, since this will
cause files with the same name to be listed in temporal order when they are sorted
alphabetically. So you might have something like
'Smith Honours Proposal 2002-02-25.doc'.
- Make sure your document has a cover page that contains the title
and your name. In most circumstances it's also appropriate
to include the date of the document on the front cover, again to make
it easier for the recipient to manage multiple versions. Version
numbers are okay too.
- Make it easy for the reader to navigate your document:
- Always provide page numbers. Page numbers of the form 'X of
Y' are most helpful, since they can comfort the reader that they
have the entire document, or, alternatively, alert them to the fact
that pages at the end are missing.
- Use numbered section headings.
- Number all your examples, tables and figures.
- For long documents (say, more than 20 pages), having a table of
contents can help a lot.
Providing explicit labelling like this also makes it much
for someone else to refer to your document.
- Care about presentation. This is important at a variety of
- Always spell check your documents. Using a grammar
checker can help a lot too, despite the inherent limitations of the
- Choose fonts carefully: see the separate note on fonts [yet to be written].
- Think of your document as a physical work of art. For final
versions of anything
more than 15-20 pages long, consider presenting the document using
some kind of
binding. Apart from looking better, the document is less likely to
fall apart. As documents become longer, it becomes especially
important to bind them with plastic or cardboard fronts and backs to
By paying attention to these often aesthetic matters, you'll find your
is more warmly accepted by its readers.
[Did you find this page useful? Did it miss out
something on the topic you
thought was important? Is some part of it wrong? Mail
me and let me know.]
Please send comments or queries about this web site to Robert.Dale@mq.edu.au
8 February 2006