FormattingAs bloggers, we write pages upon pages of content each week. We spend hours promoting the articles, choosing the right words and trying to get our point across as clearly as possible. How can formatting be used to further improve our posts?

There are a few basic tools that you will have heard mention of time and time again, such as bolding words. The first section re-explains their purpose, and the second will explain how to perfect your usage of them to achieve optimal formatting.

The Formatting Toolbox

  • Headings and subheadings. Posts usually cover 2 or 3 sub-topics of the overall post topic. If you don’t use headings to mark out the sub-topics, then the reader has no way of knowing exactly which topics have been covered in the article. What if they’re only interested in the last section? Mark out the last section with a good header, and they’ll know to read it.
  • Bold keywords. A bold keyword is said to have more weight in the search engines. That may be true, but the best usage of bold formatting is when you can highlight a phrase which sums up the whole paragraph. If you removed all but the words in bold on this page, you would end up with a usable summary of the page.
  • Italics. Italics are another, equally valid, method of highlighting certain phrases. Often I use italics for file names, or snippets of code in a paragraph. On personal blogs, it may be used to indicate sarcasm. Its meaning will depend on your own style of writing.
  • Lists. Lists are a good way of presenting information.
  • Spacing. In design, empty space is a powerful tool for creating a usable web page. The same rule applies to post formatting. Is there enough space surrounding your sub-headings? Are your lists and blockquotes indented?

The Finishing Touches For Perfection

When you have written a post, and applied the usual formatting to it, it is important to then preview your post as it will look when published. In this view, you will see it exactly as your readers will, and can make the final tweaks as necessary.

  • Are your images dominating? Many posts may use images to help describe a point. They are a highly effective tool, but when they fall too close to a heading, they can often dominate the heading, rendering it less useful. The solution is to add extra spacing around the image. An example can be seen in this post on proximity in design. The second image has had extra spacing applied beneath it, in order to allow the heading enough room to be effective.
  • Bold phrases should be physically separated. Bolding a phrase makes the text larger and heavier. When a bold phrase on one line is followed by a bold phrase directly beneath it, the two may appear to merge. This has been demonstrated in this paragraph.
  • Line breaks may be used in lists. If a list has been used to convey short pieces of information, there may be no need for line breaks between the bullets. However, if each list item contains a full paragraph, as in this page, spacing should be used to prevent the list from becoming a daunting block of text.
  • Text wrapping around inline images and adverts. I begin every post here with an inline image, and many blogs do the same with other images or adverts. These items should be positioned in a way that does not cause content to be laid out awkwardly. For images, this may mean resizing the image. For adverts, you may need to change the length of a paragraph, add line breaks or reposition a heading.

There are many different ways of using formatting, but the key thing to remember is to develop your own style, and then use it consistently. The way in which you choose to apply formatting is largely irrelevant, provided you format consistently. If your style includes using sub-headings, inline images, and italics then your readers will expect to find these things in all of your posts.

What formatting do you use formatting in your posts?

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