Plan documents 1

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Before you begin vii
Topic 1: Plan documents 1
1A Determine the document purpose 2
1B Choose appropriate document format 6
1C Establish the means of communication 14
1D Determine document requirements 18
1E Determine content and order 26
1F Develop an overview of structure and content 31
Summary 36
Learning checkpoint 1: Plan documents 37
Topic 2: Draft text 41
2A Review and organise material 42
2B Prepare text 44
2C Include graphics 46
2D Identify and fll information gaps 50
2E Draf text 53
2F Use appropriate language 54
Summary 57
Learning checkpoint 2: Draf text 58
Topic 3: Prepare fnal text 63
3A Review draf text 64
3B Check for accuracy 67
3C Obtain approval for draf text 70
3D Incorporate revisions 73
Summary 75
Learning checkpoint 3: Prepare fnal text 76
Topic 4: Produce a document 79
4A Choose appropriate design elements 80
4B Use word processing sofware 90
4C Check documents 93
Summary 98
Learning checkpoint 4: Produce a document 99
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Answer purpose questions
Effective communication and problem-solving skills are important to help you understand
what is required for each document. Developing questions to ask about the purpose,
intended audience and timing requirements for each document is one way you can develop
these, as well as refning your active listening skills so that you understand the brief clearly.
Here are some of the ways to fnd information.
Answering questions
└ How you answer the questions relating to purpose depends on
your organisation, your job role and how you are initially asked
to complete the document. For example, you may be given a
clear briefng by your supervisor or manager before you start the
document. In this case, you should ask them these questions,
and seek their advice on appropriate people to help you, if they
do not know the answers.
Deducing answers
└ You may need to deduce the answers to these questions based
on the data you have to include. Clarify your understanding with
an appropriate member of your organisation. Review similar
documents, or speak with someone who has created similar
material. Your colleagues or predecessors in your position may
also be able to explain how regularly documents are produced,
such as sales reports.
Problem-solving skills
└ Beyond deducing answers, these may include being responsive
to changing requirements or time lines relating to your document,
or identifying appropriate solutions when the material you are
presenting does not ft exactly with required templates or house
style. The more complex a document, the more likely you will
need to adopt a problem-solving approach.
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Considerations when using email
Remember to consider the fle size and type of an attachment before
sending it. Make sure your recipient can access the fle. It is a good idea to
send a separate, confrming email to ensure large fles have been received.
Although emails may be more casual than letters, you may be subject to
some of the same requirements, such as using a standard layout or font,
including marketing messages or a confdentiality clause at the end of the
Protecting privacy and maintaining confdentiality
An email displays all recipients in the ‘to’ and ‘cc’ felds. If you are copying
in your manager, it’s more courteous to use the ‘cc’ feld and inform
other recipients. If you are sending emails to an external group, such as a
customer newsletter, you may use the ‘bcc’ feld to protect your customers’
Take care when sending confdential information by email, particularly with
sensitive business or customer details. For this information, you may need
to use encryption or password protection. Follow your organisation’s policy
on what can be sent.
Manuals, instructions and procedures
Manuals, instructions and procedures may be used to convey information for guiding,
educating or training staff. Tese may be standard work instructions or procedures for
a department, such as how to prepare the monthly accounts, or they may be training in
specifc skills, such as customer-service training. Here you will fnd information that is
relevant to the use of these resources.
Standard work instructions and manuals
└ Business procedures are sometimes documented to conform to
external requirements, such as ISO procedures, and you may be
required to follow a template to satisfy audit requirements. This is
often the case for manuals about work health and safety (WHS)
or equal-opportunity policies.
Training material structure
└ If you are developing training material, you should confrm
whether your organisation has a standard template. This may
cover layout and presentation, but may also influence the time
allocated to each session before breaks are required and other
structural elements.
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Website text
Most organisations now display information on their websites. Tis is a cheap and effective
way of communicating to the public. You can upload an existing document, such as an
annual report, or you can develop something specifcally for the website.
Tere are specifc guidelines which need to be observed for website information, and tender
information needs to specify what is required as identifed here.
Provider’s requirements
If you are developing material specifcally
for the website, then you should follow
the guidelines set by the web provider.
Some of these will influence the technical
aspects of the document, such as fle size,
type of graphics and so on. Website text
is often quite different in style from other
written forms and readers tend to scan
material and read on screen, rather than
print and read in detail. Other guidelines
may influence the actual language, fonts
and logos, layout and brand presentation.
Websites are an increasingly important
aspect of an organisation’s image, so it’s
important to comply with these guidelines.
Tender requirements
Some common guidelines include the
• Place critical information near the top
of the page.
• Present information in shorter
paragraphs than for print materials.
• Present information to minimise
• Use a sans serif font in 12-point or
larger font size.
• Use bold or italic to highlight key
• Use bullet points, lists and graphics to
summarise information.
Practice task 2
1. Some organisations have an accepted house style. What is a ‘house style’?
2. To protect the privacy of your clients, would you place their email addresses in the ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’
continued …
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As part of the document planning, it’s important to understand what requirements there
may be. Document requirements may include content, style, general standards or fle inputs,
as described here.
You may need to comply with
internal or external reporting
guidelines, to meet
audience needs, or to
meet legal guidelines.
You may need to comply with
internal style guides,
templates, or branding
guidelines, or to write
in a particular style
to suit audience
You may need
to comply with
protocols on
footnotes, citations,
references and so on.
To facilitate later
formatting of the
document, you
may need to collect
inputs in particular
fle structures or with
specifed resolution levels.
File inputs
Content requirements
Content requirements can be quite specifc. Here is a list explaining some of the
requirements you may encounter.
Compliance with genre
Some documents need to comply with general requirements based
on what type of document it is. For example, annual reports for large
companies generally include a fnancial summary, fnancial reports, a
letter to shareholders, information on company operations and signifcant
developments, and information about company offcers and directors
Reporting requirements
Your organisation may have made some commitments about the type of
reporting it will do, perhaps to achieve a certain external certifcation, or as
part of a public commitment. If your organisation is ISO certifed, it will need
to maintain standards of documentation as part of the certifcation. Some
government contracts require regular milestone reporting, in a specifed
structure, with which suppliers must comply.
1D Determine document requirements
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Document extents
Different documents may be subject to word limits.
Promotional materials may be limited to a number
of pages to minimise printing costs. Some reports or
internal documents may have page or word limits, to help
with management review, such as requiring single-page
summaries as a cover to funding requests with supporting
appendices. Submissions for newspapers or magazines are
ofen charged according to word length, so it’s important to
understand this at the planning stage.
Reference standards
Different disciplines and organisations can have quite specifc requirements for referencing
other work. Since these may be very specifc, it’s important to verify at planning stage what
information you should record when collecting inputs for your document.
Plagiarism is using someone else’s work without acknowledgment and presenting it as your
own. Consequences can range from discrediting academic work to copyright concerns.
Acknowledge any material you use in your document. You should be familiar with common
methods of creating a bibliography, footnotes and endnotes, particularly if you prepare
formal, detailed research reports. Te difference between different ways of acknowledging
your sources of information is here.
└ Bibliographies provide a list of the references used throughout
the document. The Harvard (author–date) and the Oxford system
are commonly used methods.
└ Citations are short details about the reference used within the
text of a document. Full details of the reference are included in
the bibliography.
└ Footnotes and endnotes are used to either provide further
information, such as legal disclaimers, or to provide
bibliographical information. Footnotes are located at the bottom
of each page, while endnotes may be included at the end of each
chapter, or the whole document.
└ Acknowledgments are used to recognise particular contributions
by individuals and organisations. These are usually placed at the
start of a document.
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Topic 1
Plan documents
Presenting options
└ Arguments and rebuttals can also be used when presenting a proposal with
several options. A simple method is to create a list of options in a table, with
columns ‘For’ and ‘Against’. This allows the reader to assess the worth of each
Persuading the reader
└ If you are presenting a series of views, but hoping to persuade the reader to
support one particular view, it’s best to present the alternative views frst, together
with their rebuttals, and conclude with your preferred view.
Different sequences
Some documents may adopt a more fxed structure. Documents may have chronological,
alphabetical or operating sequences, as shown here.
Some reports may use a chronological sequence, either throughout the
document or in key sections. A research report may begin with a summary of
the research, key fndings, and methodology, then proceed to a chronological
reporting of the research, then fnish with conclusions and recommendations.
Alphabetical sequences may be used for documents that have a reference
function, as information is easy to fnd. Training manuals or reference
documents for new employees about different forms used in the organisation
may follow this structure.
Documents for work instructions and procedures will most likely adopt an
operating sequence; that is, they will mostly follow the order used in the
procedure, with preliminary sections explaining the purpose of the document,
key terms, related documents and so on.
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Using plain English
Using simple English will help improve the readability of your document.
Some common guidelines for using simple English include the following:
• Use active language rather than passive language.
• Use inclusive language and avoid discriminatory language.
• Use short sentences with one main point.
• Vary sentence and paragraph length.
• Avoid repeating content unnecessarily.
Formatting and document appearance
Depending on your organisation’s structure and procedures, you may not be responsible for
formatting the fnal document. If someone else will format the document, then you should
ensure that they are aware of any organisation requirements, such as those contained in the
style guide or any other workplace policy or procedure.
If you are responsible for formatting the document, you should be guided by the
organisation requirements or the style guide. If there are no guidelines in place, then spend
some planning time considering your format so you can use it consistently throughout your
Some elements to consider include:
• font styles for standard text, headings, subheadings, emphasising text, creating case
studies, introducing new terms and so on
• headers and footers including document references, logos, copyright messages and so on
• labelling of graphics and other illustrations
• spacing between paragraphs, lists and sections to provide white space
• use of borders, break-out boxes and other emphasising tools.
Document templates and styles
Many organisations develop document templates that are used as a standard for all written
texts (for example, letters, reports, emails). Te templates contain prescribed styles, which
are applied to the features of a text document. Ofen, the styles are set up with corporate
colours and are designed to create a consistent overall presentation for all communications.
Styles not only determine the font type and size, but are also formatted to include space
before and afer, indents, bullets and numbering attributes for each feature.
In addition to having consistent styles, the use of templates with prescribed margin sizes
and spaces between the paragraphs determines the amount of white space that in turn
enhances the readability of the document.
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… continued
2. Identify two sustainability strategies to ensure the effective use of resources in your organisation
or in one with which you are familiar.
1. Writers should determine the purpose of a complex document by clarifying the
audience, the presentation forum, the expected outcome and the expected length of the
2. Tere are many different document formats, including detailed business letters, emails,
instructional material, promotional material, reports, speeches, presentations, tender
submissions, public notices and website text.
3. Each document format may have different requirements about their content, style, or
general standards such as referencing and cataloguing. Your organisation may detail
specifc requirements in a style guide, which you should follow carefully.
4. Research fle input requirements carefully during the planning phase to ensure you
provide documents in the appropriate format.
5. Document structure should be appropriate to the type of document and the presentation
6. A control document is a helpful way of planning structure and content of your
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Topic 2
Draft text
Example: prepare text for submission
Simon has received the recommended pricing structure from the fnance department. He develops
a table summarising the price by model line, and for the different alternative uniforms they are
offering. After checking that the table covers all information Natalie requested, he includes it in his
control document. Since pricing is a critical decision, he forwards this table to Jesse for review and
approval before he completes the document. Here are the steps taken within this process.
Supporting his case
To support the case that his company
is a supplier of choice, Simon is
collating information about their
customer satisfaction performance
compared to industry standards.
He reviews the latest customer
satisfaction results, as well as their
performance fgures, and makes some
notes about how this reflects their
superior performance. He sketches
some column graphs to present the
information. Having clarifed the graph
structure in his mind, he creates the
graph in Microsoft Excel.
Reviewing information
It’s prudent that Simon asks his
manager to review pricing ahead
of the whole document, as it could
take time to resolve any concerns
with the fnance department, and he
has a fxed deadline for submission.
Interpreting customer satisfaction
and performance information allows
Simon to choose which elements
to highlight in his graphics, while
sketching a graph before creating it
can save time in structuring data to
create a graph in applications such as
Microsoft Excel.
Practice task 8
Place a number in the column next to each step in the following table to indicate the order of
steps you would follow when preparing text.
Steps in preparing text Correct order for each step
Review information
Write brief notes
Interpret data
Develop graphics
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Review your control document and assess whether you have everything you require. You
may fnd that, even though you have received all the inputs you requested, there are still
some gaps in the information. For example, you may
be developing a proposal for management approval
for a new piece of equipment. Afer reviewing your
control document, you may decide that there is
insufcient information on the inefciency of using
an outdated photocopier that regularly jams, and
decide to include an estimate of time lost per week.
You may fnd that some of the material you requested
from other employees is still pending. You should
remind these employees of your request, perhaps
providing information about when your document
is due and how their delay is putting your document
at risk.
Request information
Requesting information from others can be tricky, depending on your relative position and
influence in the organisation. If you are meeting resistance from your peers, you may need
to speak to the appropriate manager or supervisor for assistance. It’s courteous to inform
someone’s manager if you have asked them to complete a large piece of work.
In most organisations, there are a range of people you could ask for information, some of
whom are outlined here.
Colleagues or team members
└ Usually within your own area, and can be approached directly. May have
more information or experience, better data presentation skills, or some
time available to assist you.
Consultative committees
└ Consultative committees may be helpful for understanding background
to a policy or direction for a document.
Internal specialists
└ Internal specialists may be helpful for understanding background to a
policy or direction for a document.
continued …
2D Identify and fll information gaps
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Using appropriate language is critical to an effective
document. If the language is too technical or fails to
convey information in a meaningful way, the
audience will not understand the message, and
therefore the document cannot achieve its purpose.
Most readers in a business environment do not
have time to read over a document several times to
understand its key messages. You must use clear,
concise language that is appropriate to the education
and knowledge level of the audience. Tis way, the
audience will absorb your message easily, making
your document more effective.
Ways to use appropriate language
Some suggestions for using appropriate language are outlined in the following. You should
also review and comply with your organisation’s style guide.
Minimise technical language
It may not be possible to avoid technical language, but ensure it is used at a level that
would be easily understood by the audience. If in doubt, defne terms carefully when they
are frst introduced. You may need to repeat this in longer documents, depending on how
frequently the terms are used.
Minimise jargon
Many organisations use unique jargon, abbreviations and acronyms. While these may be
in common use within the organisation, defning them when they are frst used, and using
simple English alternatives where possible will help avoid confusion for new employees or
other readers unfamiliar with the terms.
Use active voice
Previous sections have explained how active voice is generally more concise, and easier
for readers to understand. Passive voice often requires a more complex sentence
structure, which can confuse the message.
Selective use of passive
Traditionally, passive writing was used for formality in business writing, but this trend is
declining. Passive voice can be a helpful tool when the writer is deliberately obscuring the
subject, such as ‘The error was overlooked in the editing process’ rather than ‘The editor
overlooked the error’.
2F Use appropriate language
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It’s important to complete the review stages carefully, as errors can distract readers from an
otherwise excellent document. It’s likely you’ll complete several reviews of your document,
as you process amendments, fnalise small details and check the overall functionality of
your document. Te following checklist summarises the key areas you should review.
Review checklist
Does it achieve the document purpose?
Does it use language appropriate to the audience?
Does the format suit the intended presentation forum?
Does it conform to length requirements?
Have you used the required templates (either internal or external)?
Have you conformed to any relevant style guide requirements?
Have you met any traditional requirements for this document type?
Have you used a simple, effective writing style with:
• active, inclusive, non-discriminatory language
• clear, concise sentences of varied length
• a high level of readability?
Have you met referencing standards; for example, bibliography, citations,
footnotes, acknowledgments?
Are your fles an appropriate size and type for your chosen format?
Is the overall content appropriate to the audience’s knowledge and skill level?
Is there a balance of information and examples?
Are graphics clear, effective and appropriately balanced with the text?
Is there suffcient information to achieve the document’s purpose?
Is information provided throughout the document consistent?
Have you checked for spelling, grammar and style errors?
Have you completed internal reviews, especially legal reviews?
Have you processed any amendments from the reviews?
Have you reviewed formatting for consistency and a balance of white space?
Have you requested proofreading by a colleague or associate?
3A Review draft text
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Correct punctuation improves a document’s readability. The following forms of
punctuation should be correctly and consistently used in accordance with the
specifcations in the above style manual:
• Apostrophes, brackets, colons and semicolons
• Full stops (in sentences and in abbreviations) and spacing after full stops
• Commas, hyphens and quotation marks
Your organisation’s style guide may provide guidance for using punctuation correctly.
Some software packages will do grammar checks, which are useful to identify some
At a minimum, you should run a spellcheck on any document before you distribute
it, even for preliminary review. Check which dictionary is set in your word processing
application, as some organisations have a preference for UK spelling over US
spelling; for example, using ‘organisation’ instead of ‘organization’.
If you are in doubt, consult a dictionary, such as the Macquarie Dictionary or the
Australian Oxford Dictionary.
There are some spelling errors that may not be identifed by automatic spellchecks.
For example, you may type ‘form’ instead of ‘from’. Some of these errors may be
identifed in the grammar checks, but others will not, so review your document
carefully for these types of hidden errors.
Make sure the text has the appropriate style and a consistent tone. If you have
changed contributors’ text, make sure you check them to review to ensure you
have not changed the meaning, particularly for technical material. Read sections
of it out loud to yourself. Does it flow easily? Does it seem to take too long to read
some sentences, or are you running out of breath? If so, you may fnd that you need
additional punctuation in your sentences, or to write shorter sentences. You should
also check your document against any organisational style guide requirements.
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Topic 3
Prepare fnal text
It’s likely that the approvals process will generate suggestions and changes for your
document. When you receive the suggestions from the reviewer, ask them whether they
wish to see the document again once the changes have been made, or whether they are
happy to proceed without further review. If you are using a sign-off sheet, ask them to sign
this accordingly.
Some of the common changes that may be required are outlined in the following.
Changes can potentially be quite time-consuming to make. For example, a
reviewer might suggest that your sales report include a graph comparing
sales fgures across years. You will need to collect this information, create the
graph, and insert it into your document with supporting text. Reviewers may
also suggest removing certain content to maintain confdentiality or to ensure
relevancy to the main purpose of the document. Presentations and speeches
may require substantial change, as the presenter needs to be comfortable with
the content they are delivering.
Formatting and layout
These changes will be relatively straightforward to make, although they can still
be time-consuming. Be aware that when external printers and publishers are
involved, preparing multiple proof copies can become expensive. Ensure that
you circulate the proofs to all affected stakeholders before returning them to the
printer. When providing or receiving input about formatting and layout changes,
discuss the changes in person or over the phone, rather than simply returning
a marked-up document. This helps ensure the correct change is made the frst
time, saving time and money.
Legal compliance
Some legal input may be non-negotiable. Experts may require wording to be
changed to ensure compliance with particular legislation. Other legal guidance
is more general, and may relate to minimising risk. While you may choose not to
input these kinds of changes, you should ensure that your manager and other
affected stakeholders are aware of the decision. It’s also prudent to keep a
record of their approval not to include these types of changes.
3D Incorporate revisions
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Depending on your job role and your organisation’s structure, you may either format the
document yourself, or pass it to a formatter. Some elements of formatting may be dictated by
your organisation style guide or templates.
Consider formatting requirements in your planning
stages, particularly if you are developing a template.
Tis can save you considerable time when the
document is complete. If you are developing your
own template, consider writing a list of when
particular elements will apply to help you check
consistency in the proofreading stages.
In general, the design and layout needs to reflect the
nature of your document, its overall style and tone.
You may use a more traditional, symmetrical layout
with conservative textual contrast for a management
report, but adopt a more light-hearted, colourful
approach for an employee presentation.
Capital letters and acronyms
It is not a good idea to capitalise words as a design feature in professional documents such as
letters and reports. However, if you opt to use capitals, make sure you use them consistently
throughout your document. Some words always have a capital letter, such as frst words of
sentences, proper nouns like Australia and acronyms such as ANZ (Australia New Zealand).
Fonts can provide contrast in a number of ways, as outlined here.
• Vary text size based on the relative importance of the text.
• Headings will usually use the largest text, followed by subheadings,
body text then captions.
• For body text, try to use at least 10-point serif font to improve
• Most fonts can be portrayed in different weights, such as bold, italic,
underline or combinations such as bold-italic.
• These add interest, as well as providing cues for items like headings,
introducing new terms and referring to titles.
• Plan their use carefully and apply consistently.
4A Choose appropriate design elements
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• Tables can help summarise key information in a document.
• If tables will be cross-referenced throughout the document, or if a list of
tables will be included with the contents, then number tables so they are
consistent with the heading hierarchy. A simple method is to use the chapter
numbers, such as ‘Table 4.1: Common design elements’.
• The font for labelling tables is usually the same, but smaller than that used
for the main body of text.
• A table must always be cross-referenced to the content of the document to
ensure the reader links the two.
Page size and layout
Tere are a number of considerations when it comes to page size and layout. Te orientation
of the page is ofen determined by the purpose of the document and what it is intended
to contain (for example, some tables present better in a landscape layout). Margins and
indentations dictate how much white space is included in a document, and this can affect its
readability. Here are some aspects of page size and layout that you need to consider.
Margins and paragraph indentation
Margins should provide balance between left and right margins, and top and
bottom margins. Consider extending top and bottom margins if the headers and
footers are detailed. Adjusting margins can help include more text if there are
page length limitations, but if they are too narrow then a document is diffcult to
Indenting paragraphs can help highlight text. Lists and bullets should be
indented by at least one level from the main text to create contrast. Break-out
boxes or side panels can be a helpful tool for providing related information that
does not flow easily from the main text. Break-out boxes may be used in training
material to provide practical tips on applying the theory being described.
Page orientation
Portrait and landscape are the most commonly used orientations in complex
documents. You can switch between the two formats within a document;
for example, displaying the main text in portrait format but including a table
summarising product in landscape format.
Presentations often have a number of slide templates that can adjust the
orientation of a page; for example, different ways of combining text and
graphics. Microsoft PowerPoint has a slide-master function, which allows you to
create a template for background colour, font style and so on for each of these
slide types. Similarly, desktop publishing applications may have more formats to
better suit newsletters or promotional materials.
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Example: choose appropriate design elements
Simon is formatting the presentation for Jesse to deliver to the automotive repair chain. Here is how
Simon selected appropriate design elements for his submission.
Adapting the format
Simon decides to use his organisation’s corporate colours as a guide for his
presentation. Since there is no standard template, he designs one himself so he
can use it again for subsequent presentations.
He decides that he will display their logo on the bottom right-hand corner of
each slide. On the left-hand corner of the slide template, he includes the date
of the presentation. Since the logo is dark blue with silver edging, he decides
to make the background of the slides blue, and to use yellow font so it can be
clearly distinguished on the screen.
Creating links
For slides with graphics, Simon displays text on the left-hand side, with the
graphic on the right. He realises the slides with pie charts are more effectively
displayed with the text on top, but retains the other format for the column
graphs and photographs.
Simon has structured the written submission with numbered heading
hierarchies. Since there is some introductory company information in the
presentation, he can’t use the same section numbers, but decides to use the
same headings in her presentation.
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Confrm that language is used consistently. If you have been following a style guide for
spelling, capitalisation and other language points, then check that all language follows
this guide. Other elements that may be affected include hyphenation, abbreviations,
choice of US or UK spelling, and overall style and tone.
Finally, check that the formatting has been applied consistently throughout the
document. Have you applied heading hierarchies consistently? Is there a consistent
use of white space? Are lists and tables formatted similarly? These types of checks will
help ensure your layout looks professional and will ensure the reader is not confused or
distracted by inconsistencies.
Check cross-references, such as ‘Table 1.3 shows… ‘. If you have used automatic links
for cross-references, refresh the links before completing these checks. You should
refresh these links whenever you make a change to a label or cross-reference. Check
that any web links are still current.
If a particular style of referencing, such as the Harvard style, is required, check that
all references follow this style; otherwise, check the same style has been applied
consistently. Make sure sources have been acknowledged and that any copyright
requirements have been followed.
Document completeness
Depending on the nature of your document, you may require supporting sections,
• covers and text for covers
• executive summary
• footnotes and endnotes
• appendices
• lists of abbreviations, key terms or a glossary
• references or bibliography
• index or table of contents
• copyright or library classifcation data.
Section completeness
It’s often easier to compile sections when the main body of the text is complete, so
ensure that you allow enough time to prepare and review these documents. Ensure
information in these supporting sections is consistent with the main body of the text,
in terms of presenting the same data, following the same style guidelines and a similar
format. Spot check the information in reference documents against the main body of the
Check the executive summary very carefully. Some members of the audience may read
this but only scan other material. Errors in could therefore have a signifcant impact on
these readers.

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