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Improving clarity and readability

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NetSquirrel | 16:00 Sat 12th Nov 2005 | Science
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When writing up an important piece of work I often find that the way I've laid things out (the paragraphs, diagrams, equations etc.) is untidy and could be greatly improved. What I'm looking for is a web page that demonstrates various ways of setting out information - what makes it easier to read, what draws attention, how to arrange images, mistakes to avoid, and so on - and, if possible, explains scientifically why certain styles work better than others.

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Not quite what you're after, but have you ever tried using LaTeX?

It's a free language / typesetting program, a bit like Word, and does a lot of the hard work for you. I usually find that anything I write within it (it's more for scientific / mathematical documents, but could be used for anything) looks great with the default settings.
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Question Author

Thank you for taking the time to answer, and well done for deciphering my pathetically vague question.


Allen, your advice is excellent and I hope to put it straight into effect, especially the point about paragraph spacing. I've just been browsing some of your other answers, and they really are much easier to read than most! (Will also take your advice about copying others' examples.)


Fo3nix, I had a quick go at using WinEdt after you recommended it to me before. After looking at some examples of equations and documents produced using LaTeX, I am very impressed. The main problem is getting to grips with the code, and of course the near-endless number of features it seems to offer. I'll try to stick with it, though, as it looks like it might be of more use to me than Word in the long run.


I'll keep looking for web sites about this kind of thing (I'll post them here if I find any, in case anyone else is interested.)

If LaTeX is going to be useful to you, either buy a book (i'd recommend "Guide to LaTeX" by Helmut Kopka), or get a very similar (and free) online version. I'd suggest going for the online version, and if you really get into it, get the book.

http://people.ee.ethz.ch/~oetiker/lshort/lshort.pdf

That details all the features the average person may use. It does a lot more (most extra things by adding packages), but that guide teaches you everything. It assumes you know nothing about LaTeX, apart from knowing how to get it working on your system. The best I've found on the web.
This is the best:
http://www.mandarindesign.com/

And if you want some free tutorials and ideas 9some of them you have to pay for, then visit:
http://www.bamagazine.com/

And other tips on graphic design and inspirational articles can be found on this amazing blog, where I got the ideas for the above two links:
http://paperclipping.blogspot.com/


Good luck and lets hope we can all improve our typographic / layout skills.
Question Author
Thanks, mesmerize_99, for helping me out even after such a long time! Those sites look great (the second one says its currently undergoing maintenance but I'll check back later). It looks like the kind of thing I was after, and I'll have a proper look tomorrow when I'm more awake. Many thanks to you for doing this for me (oh and hey I just noticed Answerbank there on the blog -- it must be good then eh).

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