So you’ve been tasked to create an important document that is supposed to look nice, but you have no illustrations to spice it up. And now you are faced with a boring sea of Times New Roman. Not all of us are blessed with huge clip art libraries or endless funds to purchase stock photography. In certain documents, sometimes the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to illustration anyway. So what do you do when you don’t have any graphics, but you still want professional-looking, attractive pages? The answer is as close as your font list. Use the type itself to add zest to your page. So the next time you are feeling graphic dispair, try out these sample techniques in your word processing or desktop publishing program.
1. Add Bullets
The lowly bullet is a quick and easy way break up your pages. By listing items with bullets, you add white space into the page, which breaks it up visually. Most dull documents suffer from a lack of white space (consider an IRS publication, for example). You also don’t have to use the plain old filled circle bullet. You can use special characters such as check marks or boxes. Or special picture fonts such as Zapf Dingbats. Adding a bullet is often simple. In Word, you choose Format|Bullets and Numbering to access alternate bullets. Even in graphic software that doesn’t automate bullets, you can create them using a hanging indent. For example, in Quark XPress, you type in a negative number in the first line indent field. Type the bullet at the left margin and press Tab to start typing the body of your text. To make the bullet character, you go back, highlight it and change the font to a symbol font or special font.
Word’s Bullets and Numbering Dialog box
2. Try an Initial Cap
Oversized initial capital letters are a decorative type treatment, you often see in books. But there’s no reason not to include them in your own documents as well. A raised cap sit on the first line of text, but are much larger than the following text. Conversely, a drop cap spans down below its own line of text. In Word, creating a drop cap is easy, you just choose Format|Drop Cap. Similarly, in XPress, to create a drop cap, place your cursor in the paragraph and choose Style|Formats. In the Drop Caps section of the dialog box, place a checkmark next to Drop Caps and indicate how many characters you want to be formatted this way (the default setting is 1). Then set how many lines you want the drop cap to span. Click Apply and see how it looks. When you are happy with your settings, click OK.
After you have created drop caps, you can format them like any other character. In fact, many times you’ll notice that drop caps are formatted in a completely different font. Decorative fonts work well for drop caps because they showcase the beauty of the typeface. Take note of drop cap designs in the printed material around you and you may find some cool ideas you can borrow.
Creating a Drop Cap in XPress
3. Create a Pull Quote
A pull quote is text that has been pulled out of an article and made larger to stand out. Newspapers use this technique a lot to highlight particularly interesting elements of a story. Creating a pull quote is easy. In Word or XPress, you create a text box and place it within the surrounding text so the text flows around it.
A Pull Quote in an XPress Text Box
4. Add Ruling Lines
Ruling lines or rules are another easy way to spice up type. A ruling line is just a line that appears above or below a paragraph. They are especially useful for headings or other type that needs to stand out. To add ruling lines in Word, choose Format|Borders and Shading. The line stretches across the entire paragraph. In XPress, choose Style|Rules. Place a checkmark next to Rule Above, Rule Below, or both, depending on what you want to do. In both programs, you can change the style, width, color, and shade.
Adding a rule above text in XPress.
5. Reverse Out Text
Sometimes in a long document, it can be striking to create white text on a black background. This technique is called a reverse out. You can create reverse outs in Word by choosing Format|Borders and Shading. In the Shading tab, change the color to black, which also automatically turns the text white. Note that this affects the entire paragraph. You can create similar effect using tables by formatting the cell backgrounds. To create a centered headline, for example, you can create a three-column table and place reversed out text only in the center cell.
In XPress, you can create reversed out text using ruling lines. You create a very wide rule (i.e., wider than the font size of your text), set a negative offset value, and color the text white. It’s sneaky, but it works.
Reversed text in Word.
As with any design treatment, always remember that less is more. An initial cap at the beginning of the page is nice. An initial cap on every paragraph is not. Used in moderation, a few tricky type techniques can help you embellish even the most graphically challenged documents.