Writing styles for online board papers

By Mary Morel | 25 September 2012

Writing styles for online board papers

When writing for tablets, all the qualities of good writing apply, but they are intensified and layout becomes more important.

Headings act as signposts

Headings and subheadings break up the text and provide signposts for the paper. A reader should be able to skim read the headings and get an overview of the content. Effective headings are short and use key words. The content of a heading should be repeated in the paragraph below because some readers skip headings.

Your template should set styles for different heading levels.

Title case or sentence case for headings?

The modern style for headings is sentence case rather than title case. In title case, all the main words take initial capitals and the small, joining words are in lower case. In sentence case, you just need initial capitals for the first word and proper nouns.

Title case: How to Punctuate
Sentence case: How to punctuate

This style is in keeping with the trend towards using fewer initial capitals to signify respect, for example, the bank rather the Bank.

Bold, underlining and italics


Bold is the most common form of highlighting for headings. You can also use bold (sparingly) to highlight words for emphasis within your document.


Use italics for the full titles of Acts of Parliament, books, plays and movies.

Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006

Use single quotation marks for the titles of articles.

‘Shoppers log on for a bargain’, The Sun-Herald

Use italics to emphasise key words or foreign phrases. However, many Latin phrases are now so much part of the language that they are not italicised.


Today, underlining is mainly used for hyperlinks. Avoid using underlining for headings as it cuts off the bottom of letters and makes the writing harder to read.

Font and size

Your fonts should be set by your organisation’s templates. Most organisations use sans serif fonts for tablets because sans serif fonts are easier to read online.

Serif fonts have small finishing strokes which link letters together. In most modern serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, these serifs are not actually joined to the next letter. Sans serif fonts, such as Verdana, Tahoma and Arial, do not have extensions on the arms and stems of letters. (sans = without)

Serif typefaces are easier to read in print and many organisations traditionally used Times New Roman. Today, many organisations use Arial for print material even though it is a sans serif font, because it looks more modern than Times New Roman. The font size will depend on the sans serif font you are using. With Arial, most organisations use size 10 or 11.

Justified or left-aligned?

Body text can be either fully justified (where both the right and left-hand margins align), or aligned left with the right-hand margin ragged. This is a style choice, but consistency matters. Fully justified text looks neater, but often creates uneven spacing between words.


Your board paper guidelines should set colour use. All colours used should be in keeping with your organisation’s brand.