Writing for Business

by Steve Roche

Illustrative material and design

Depending on what you are writing, you may or may not include photographs, diagrams, sketches and other illustrative material, and you will not always be able to call on professional help to give that polished look to the finished work. We are not all natural, let alone trained, graphic designers, but there are some pointers that will help improve the overall impact of your work.

  • Make sure that any photographs or other illustrations amplify the text in some way (they shouldn’t be there just as ‘eye candy’).
  • If you are including coloured diagrams and tables, keep to a carefully chosen colour palette. A hodgepodge of primary colours, tones, shades, pastels and the like is confusing and looks unprofessional.
  • Especially if your writing is intended for outsiders, consider using colours that complement those used in your organisation logo and similar materials.
  • Do the style and colour choices– retro, minimalist, bold, eco-friendly and nature loving – reflect your organisation values and beliefs and back up your written message?
  • However skilled you are at making full use of all the effects available with your computer, remember that in design less is often more. An all-singing, all-dancing appearance can overload the reader and obscure your message.
  • Coloured text may help to emphasise certain points, but use it with discretion: one additional colour, other than blue links, may have valid uses, but more will tend to look messy.
  • If you are producing a leaflet or brochure that will have a relatively long life-span, avoid including extreme fashions or other datable material.
  • If your material is likely to be translated, perhaps for foreign customers, you may wish to avoid any writing appearing in the pictures.
  • When colouring diagrams, remember that red/green confusion is the commonest form of colour blindness.
  • If you are including photographs, consider Diversity issues.


It pays to put thought into writing captions. Research shows that up to 80 per cent of book readers, who after all have probably paid for the privilege, never get further than reading the captions of the average illustrated book. Bearing in mind the limited time available to most of your readers, try to use captions to emphasise key points.