WCAG 2.0 & 2.1

Document formatting refers to the way a document is laid out on the page—the way it looks and is visually organized—and it addresses things like font selection, font size and presentation (like bold or italics), spacing, margins, alignment, columns, indentation, and lists. Basically, the mechanics of how the words appear on the page. A well formatting document is consistent, correct (in terms of meeting any stated requirements), and easy to read.

The visual appeal of a document has an effect on the reader and how they perceive the information, so it’s important in any piece of writing or documentation to be concerned with its formatting. Formatting also makes information more accessible to the reader by creating and labeling sections (headings), highlighting key words or ideas (bold, italics, or lists), and making a good impression (professional look and feel, appropriate font choice for the document type).

There are many ways to format a technical or professional document. Assignments may specify formatting requirements, but if a style is not dictated, maintain a clear and consistent format throughout the document.

Especially when combining work from multiple team members, details like slight differences in font size or line spacing are easy to miss, but these subtle inconsistencies detract from the overall professionalism of your document. Sloppy formatting will reflect poorly on your abilities, and your audience may lose confidence in your message.

Understanding WCAG 2.1 is organized by guideline. The intent and any advisory techniques that are related to the guideline but not specifically related to any of its Success Criteria are listed there as well.These sections each contain:

Formatting Standards

Basic Formatting Standards for Lab Documents

A few standards that should be used in most lab documents, unless specified otherwise:

  • 11-12 pt. font in a consistent style throughout, including headers, footers, and visual labels
  • 14 pt. font for section headings (and “Memo” or other document label within a header)
  • A standard, professional font (e.g., Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri)
  • Single or 0.15 line spacing, with no indentation on the first line of the paragraph
  • Additional line break between paragraphs
  • Left-justified body text
  • Page numbers at bottom right corner (starting the first page of the main text, i.e. not the cover page or Table of Contents)
  • 1 in. margins

Using the built-in features in Microsoft Word can help maintain proper formatting even when you need to make changes to your document.

  • • Word’s Equation Editor should be used for all equations and calculations (see Using Graphics and Visuals Effectively for more information on formatting equations, figures, and tables).
  • • All page breaks should use the Page Break option within Word. This ensures that proper spacing will be maintained regardless of changes to the surrounding text or file type.
  • • Many citation styles use hanging indents in the reference list. Word has an option to indent all lines in a paragraph except the first line. This is accessible under Paragraph Options and should be used for all reference lists that require hanging indents. This option will maintain your hanging indent if the text or font size is changed.
  • • Use the list formatting feature to ensure that the spacing and alignment are consistent throughout the doc. Note that when lists extend to more than one line, the text remains vertically aligned.

Presentations are one of the most visible forms of professional or technical communication you will have to do in your career. Because of that and the nature of being put “on the spot,” presentations are often high pressure situations that make many people anxious. As with the other forms of communication described in this guide, the ability to present well is a skill that can be practiced and honed.

The skills that make you a strong presenter in that setting are incredibly valuable in many other situations.

When we think of presentations, we typically imagine standing in front of a room (or auditorium) full of people, delivering information verbally with slides projected on a screen. Variations of that scene are common. Keep in mind, though, that the skills that make you a strong presenter in that setting are incredibly valuable in many other situations, and they are worth studying and practicing.

Effective presentation skills are the ability to use your voice confidently to communicate in “live” situations—delivering information verbally and “physically,” being able to engage your audience, and thinking on your feet. It also translates to things like videos, which are a more and more common form of communication in professional spheres. You will have a number of opportunities during your academic career to practice your presentation skills, and it is worth it to put effort into developing these skills. They will serve you well in myriad situations beyond traditional presentations, such as interviews, meetings, networking, and public relations.

This chapter describes best practices and tips for becoming an effective presenter in the traditional sense, and also describes how best practices for presentation skills and visuals apply to creating videos and posters.

Similar to any other piece of writing or communication, to design a successful presentation, you must follow a thoughtful writing process (see Engineering Your Writing Process) that includes planning, drafting, and getting feedback on the presentation content, visuals, and delivery (more on that in the following section).Following is a simple and comprehensive way to approach “writing” a presentation:

Step 1: Identify and state the purpose of the presentation. Find focus by being able to clearly and simply articulate the goal of the presentation—what are you trying to achieve? This is helpful for you and your audience—you will use it in your introduction and conclusion, and it will help you draft the rest of the presentation content.

Step 2: Outline major sections. Next, break the presentation content into sections. Visualizing sections will also help you assess organization and consider transitions from one idea to the next. Plan for an introduction, main content sections that help you achieve the purpose of the presentation, and a conclusion.

Step 3: Draft content. Once you have an outline, it’s time to fill in the details and plan what you are actually going to say. Include an introduction that gives you a chance to greet the audience, state the purpose of the presentation, and provide a brief overview of the rest of the presentation (e.g. “First, we will describe the results of our study, then we’ll outline our recommendations and take your questions”). Help your audience follow the main content of the presentation by telling them as you move from one section of your outline to the next—use the structure you created to keep yourself and your audience on track.

End with a summary, restating the main ideas (purpose) from the presentation and concluding the presentation smoothly (typically thanking your audience and offering to answering any questions from your audience). Ending a presentation can be tricky, but it’s important because it will make a lasting impression with your audience—don’t neglect to plan out the conclusion carefully.

Step 4: Write presentation notes. For a more effective presentation style, write key ideas, data, and information as lists and notes (not a complete, word-for-word script). This allows you to ensure you are including all the vital information without getting stuck reading a script. Your presentation notes should allow you to look down, quickly reference important information or reminders, and then look back up at your audience.

Step 5: Design supporting visuals. Now it’s time to consider what types of visuals will best help your audience understand the information in your presentation. Typically, presentations include a title slide, an overview or advance organizer, visual support for each major content section, and a conclusion slide. Use the visuals to reinforce the organization of your presentation and help your audience see the information in new ways.

Don’t just put your notes on the slides or use visuals that will be overwhelming or distracting—your audience doesn’t need to read everything you’re saying, they need help focusing on and really understanding the most important information.

At each step of the way, assess audience and purpose and let them affect the tone and style of your presentation. What does your audience already know? What do you want them to remember or do with the information? Use the introduction and conclusion in particular to make that clear.

For in-class presentations, look at the assignment or ask the instructor to make sure you’re clear on who your audience is supposed to be. As with written assignments, you may be asked to address an imagined audience or design a presentation for a specific situation, not the real people who might be in the room.

In summary, successful presentations

  • • have a stated purpose and focus
  • • are clearly organized, with a beginning, middle, and end;
  • • guide the audience from one idea to the next, clearly explaining how ideas are connected and building on the previous section; and
  • • Provide multiple ways for the audience to absorb the most important information (aurally and visually).

Since presentation are delivered to the audience “live,” review and revise it as a verbal and visual presentation, not as a piece of writing. As part of the “writing” process, give yourself time to practice delivering your presentation out loud with the visuals. This might mean practicing in front of a mirror or asking someone else to listen to your presentation and give you feedback (or both!). Even if you have a solid plan for the presentation and a strong script, unexpected things will happen when you actually say the words—timing will feel different, you will find transitions that need to be smoothed out, slides will need to be moved.

More importantly, you will be better able to reach your audience if you are able to look up from

your notes and really talk to them—this will take practice.

When it comes time to practice delivery, think about what has made a presentation and a presenter more or less effective in your past experiences in the audience. What presenters impressed you? Or bored you? What types of presentation visuals keep your attention? Or are more useful?

One of the keys to an effective presentation is to keep your audience focused on what matters—the information—and avoid distracting them or losing their attention with things like overly complicated visuals, monotone delivery, or disinterested body language.

As a presenter, you must also bring your own energy and show the audience that you are interested in the topic—nothing is more boring than a bored presenter, and if your audience is bored, you will not be successful in delivering your message.

Verbal communication should be clear and easy to listen to; non-verbal communication (or body language) should be natural and not distracting to your audience. The chart below outlines qualities of both verbal and non-verbal communication that impact presentation style. Use it as a sort of “rubric” as you assess and practice your own presentation skills.

For this type of professional document, ensure that the final product is cohesive and consistent in its visual design.

Design a Cover Page that makes a good first impression on the reader—it should be professional, consistent with the design of the rest of the document (in terms of typeface, for example), but can also represent the team’s personality or “brand.”

Adhere to the standard formatting guidelines described for lab documents in as you finalize the Technical Design Review document:

  • • Standard, professional font (e.g., Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria)
  • • 11-12 pt. for body text
  • • Headings are used to clearly label the components and required sections of the documentation and their format should be consistent throughout the document
  • o 14 pt. bolded font for main headings (i.e., Heading 1): Executive Summary, Problem Definition Review, Conceptual Design Review, Final Design Review
  • o 12 pt. ALL CAPS for subheadings (i.e. Heading 2): DESIGN 1 REVIEW
  • • Table titles and figure captions are 1 pt. smaller than the body text
  • • Single or 1.15 line spacing, without indenting the first line of the paragraph
  • • Additional line break (space) between paragraphs
  • • Left-justified body text; centered tables, figures, and corresponding titles and captions
  • • Page numbers at bottom right corner (starting the first page of the main text, i.e. not the cover page or Table of Contents)
  • • 1in. margins on all sides
  • • Use IEEE format for citing secondary sources in text.