Headings and subheadings help to organize longer documents. Because the text is larger and often bold, the reader’s attention is drawn to them. Headings and subheadings are especially useful when you’re writing a document like a report, which often has different audiences looking for different types of information.
To write effective headings:
- Use parallelism: When you start a pattern, you should keep using it. For example, if you started with the heading “Christmas Gift Ideas for Toddlers” and then used “Christmas Gift Ideas for School-Aged Kids,” you would disrupt the pattern if your next heading was “What Toys Boys Like.”
- Use consistent sizes and fonts: In your document, you might have different “levels” of headings. For example, the title of the document in the above example is larger than the headings. Apply the same font and size to each “level” of headings in your document.
- Use limited articles: An article is a word like “the” or “a.” Too many of these can crowd your headings. For example, instead of saying “The Academic Barriers to Student Success,” you could say “Academic Barriers to Student Success.”
Lists are an easy way to show readers the connections between ideas. Bullet points often draw the reader’s attention, so they’re the perfect organizational aid for helping a reader to see next steps or important recommendations. Lists also remove the need for awkward transition words like ‘firstly’ and ‘secondly.’ To write effective lists:
- Use parallelism: Again, if you start a pattern, you should continue it.
- Keep between 3 – and 6 bullet points: Too many bullet points are hard for readers to follow.
- Punctuate the list effectively: If you’re using a paragraph list, put a colon after the topic sentence, then capitalize the first word. (As I’ve done here).