When I worked as a Creative Director in an advertising agency I always used design as a tool for presenting the story or message in the best possible light - you have only a few seconds of someone's eye on the page to make a strong enough impression for them to read on.
Here's 10 tips to consider:
- Black text on a white background is by far the easiest to read (and also comes out clearly when your proposal is photocopied).
- A serif typeface (like Times) is easier to read the a sans-serif face (like Arial) - particularly when there is lots of type on the page.
- Avoid using CAPITALS IN HEADLINES OR WHOLE SENTENCES - they tend to make the text look like a "block" and interrupt flow. I tend to use underlines and indenting to emphasize.
- Don't right-justify your paragraphs - this also has a "block" effect that makes it easier for the eye to skip over.
- Use bullet points to reinforce key messages rather than dense paragraphs.
- Remember that your audience (the Evaluation Panel) are not all experts in your field so minimise the amount of technical jargon (in non-technical sections) you use.
- Graphic elements (such as photos and graphs) are useful in getting your message across so make sure that they are relevant to what you are saying and also use captions to recap your message rather than just as a simple description of the image. This is important as the eye usually goes first to major graphic elements on the page and a caption that conveys a specific benefit will help generate interest.
- Break-out comments and quotations (if used sparingly) help add interest and also give a feeling of endorsement if they are attributed to respected individuals.
- Use sub-heads to help the reader navigate your story and where possible write them as a benefit statement.
- And lastly, my favourite, don't put full stops at the end of headlines or sub-heads - they just stop people in their tracks!