14 Using Design to Improve Understanding

Throughout this course, I will be emphasizing the big three icons on your word processor’s toolbar: BI, and U, as well as such concepts as using headings, spacing and bullets. For instance, take a minute to look at how the two following document examples are designed differently:

 

Example 1

Today’s popular movies come in three main categories: horror, comedy and drama. Although it is easy to differentiate between each type, there are some subtle similarities that connect each type. Whether or not a movie is successful in its own genre often depends on how successful it uses the other genres. A good director knows this and looks for it each time he or she calls for action.

Horror movies utilize suspense, action and shock value to attract an audience. Suspense is important in keeping the viewer invovled from beginning to end. It is there to make sure the viewer does not get up and leave a movie for popcorn at any time from beginning to end. Not knowing what is going to happen next makes the movie all that more interesting. Action makes it more realistic. Poor movies such as the Friday the 13th movies did not use adequate action to create a normal impression in the sequence of events. It didn’t seem plausible. A good horror movie, above anything else, has to be believeable. The shock value in horror is obvious. The audience screams. If you are not scared while watching the movie, you are not going to appreciate it as a horror movie. Directors have to know how to make someone jump. Having a black cat suddenly appear is a common example of shock value. Good directors find a lot better examples than that.

Comedy requires all three components as well. Suspense is in the form of not knowing the punchline before a joke is given. A good comedy will give the audience new things to laugh at. Someone like Eddie Murphy is an expert at it. He knows how to make people laugh simply by altering is approach to comedy. Believe it or not, action again is significant to the success of the movie. If you don’t have good relationships between characters, you won’t believe the story. Comedy relies heavily on reality. We don’t laugh at things we don’t recognize. They scare us more than anything else. Shock value, in comedy, comes from the amount of laughter the movie creates. Laughter is to comedy what screams are to horror. If you don’t have a good joke, you don’t have good comedy.

Drama is a mixture of horror and comedy. It includes laughter and screams, combines them in a way that makes people cry, cry for happiness and cry for sadness. It is the most difficult genre to get right. That is why many people are bored easier by drama. It is more difficult to sit through than the other two, even if done perfectly. That is why the three components are so important in drama. Without suspense, who cares? Without action, who can follow the plot? Without shock value, how can there be a climax?

 

Example 2

POPULAR MOVIES TODAY

How Directors Make their Films Work for the Audience

Today’s popular movies come in three main categories: horror, comedy and drama. Although it is easy to differentiate between each type, there are some subtle similarities that connect each type. Whether or not a movie is successful in its own genre often depends on how successful it uses the other genres. A good director knows this and looks for it each time he or she calls for action.

 

HORROR MOVIES

Horror movies utilize suspense, action and shock value to attract an audience. Suspense is important in keeping the viewer invovled from beginning to end. It is there to make sure the viewer does not get up and leave a movie for popcorn at any time from beginning to end. Not knowing what is going to happen next makes the movie all that more interesting. Action makes it more realistic. Poor movies such as the Friday the 13th movies did not use adequate action to create a normal impression in the sequence of events. It didn’t seem plausible. A good horror movie, above anything else, has to be believable. The shock value in horror is obvious. The audience screams. If you are not scared while watching the movie, you are not going to appreciate it as a horror movie. Directors have to know how to make someone jump. Having a black cat suddenly appear is a common example of shock value. Good directors find a lot better examples than that.

 

COMEDIES

Comedy requires all three components as well. Suspense is in the form of not knowing the punchline before a joke is given. A good comedy will give the audience new things to laugh at. Someone like Eddie Murphy is an expert at it. He knows how to make people laugh simply by altering is approach to comedy. Believe it or not, action again is significant to the success of the movie. If you don’t have good relationships between characters, you won’t believe the story. Comedy relies heavily on reality. We don’t laugh at things we don’t recognize. They scare us more than anything else. Shock value, in comedy, comes from the amount of laughter the movie creates. Laughter is to comedy what screams are to horror. If you don’t have a good joke, you don’t have good comedy.

 

DRAMA

Drama is a mixture of horror and comedy. It includes laughter and screams, combines them in a way that makes people cry, cry for happiness and cry for sadness. It is the most difficult genre to get right. That is why many people are bored easier by drama. It is more difficult to sit through than the other two, even if done perfectly. That is why the three components are so important in drama. Without suspense, who cares? Without action, who can follow the plot? Without shock value, how can there be a climax?

 

Do you see how simply using headings improves the document tremendously? Now think of other ways you could improve the design for this document (think of how you could use better spacing, for instance). Take a look at real documents you come across on a daily basis: how are they designed? How do they use boldface, italics, etc.? How do they use spacing? How do they use language to help you (the audience) understand what it is they are talking about? For the next 16 weeks, constantly be on the lookout for professional documents. That’s an on-going assignment.

 

Your first activity is going to be a simple practice in using design to improve understanding in a document. In the upcoming “Written Assignment,” you will find a note written by a woman to her milk delivery person. I hope the errors in organization are obvious. What I would like you to do is improve the language of the note, but also to work on improving Mrs. Sanderson’s design.

 

Good luck

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Technical Writing by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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