Find (and create) the look you want for your document

Good artists copy. Great artists steal. How does this apply to you?

If you’re working on a Word document that has to impress somebody and you’re daunted by the blank canvas Word presents you with when you create a new document, worry not. Become a great artist instead. Start fishing for ideas. And if you face design challenges while modifying your document’s look, fish some more.

Drop your line in the following waters:

  • documents you like the look of
  • templates that come with your word processor
  • word processor web sites, which commonly feature a variety of free templates (hint: visit not just the Microsoft Word site but also the ones for Apple Pages,, Lotus Symphony and other word processors, as well as third-party template sites that appear in Google searches)

Use a premade template

At this stage, you have two options:

  1. You can create your document’s look from scratch
  2. You can open a premade template and change the formatting (particularly styles) in it to match what you need

Option 2 takes less time and will likely give you better results.

By the way, this tip goes for spreadsheets and presentations as well as word processing documents.

Creating your own template

Once you’ve completed a document and made it look right, save it as a template. (In Word, you can distinguish templates from documents by the file name extension: doTx versus doCx).

Creating your own template saves you time in several ways:

  • You can give future documents a look consistent to those that you have already produced
  • You don’t need to reinvent the look
  • You can include not just the styles you used but instructions on how to use those styles, making your template understandable to others who may need it.

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