PowerPoint or Keynote are perfect alternatives to word processing applications to write documents that are primarily intended for reading and not for presenting on-stage. Corporate executives are so overloaded with information that the memo written in long-hand text is making way for a more visual way of presenting that is somewhere in between a dense text and a keynote presentation. If you write a book or a complex legal contract you probably rely on some of the more advanced word processing functionalities (style sheets, numbering, revision marking, etc.) For all other situations, PowerPoint or Keynote work fine.
The first and most important thing to do is to realize that you are writing a document for reading not presenting and adjust your style accordingly:
- Reduce your font size to make space for more elaborate sentences. You will not be there to present the document, so the text should be self-explanatory. Big bold fonts work great for catchy headlines, for actual reading a smaller font size is more readable (a bit counter intuitive).
- Don’t make your sentences to long. A book has only 7-10 words on a line, and newspapers use columns to keep lines short. The eye can get lost if it needs to make left-to-right movements over longer distances. Consider using a column layout of the page as well, either across the page, or one column at the side of the page and an illustration covering the rest.
- Add tracker pages, page numbers, and other reminders of where the reader is in the document. I believe that in short stand up presentation these elements just add clutter, when we sit down to read, we need to bring them back in.
- Maintain white space on the page, use wide page borders to create a calmer look. It is better to shrink the text and give it space to breath, rather than increase the font size until you covered the entire canvas.
- Use very subtle techniques to highlight text. Too many bolds, italics, and underlines create clutter. Only use a few different font sizes.
- Make sure that objects and text columns are properly aligned on each page.
- Dark background are usually not very readable with smaller text, and are definitely a problem when your document has to be printed. Go for a light background instead.
Remember that writing a text document in presentation design software might sometimes require deviating from the standard presentation 4:3 landscape aspect ratio, PowerPoint or Keynote can equally work with a vertical A4 or letter page format.