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The "Formatting" Lesson is part of the full, Complete Intro to Product Management course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Brian explains that proper formatting can drastically improve the effectiveness of written communication. Most readers skim documents. Headings, bolding, and colors can succinctly pull out the key points and draw the eye of a reader.


Transcript from the "Formatting" Lesson

>> This was me, again, we were talking about people skimming docs, right? What's the first thing you saw on this page? You might have seen one of the headings, but I imagine many of you saw that right away, right? Most people skim docs. Hopefully proved my point right away.

Again, we were talking about most people write like they're in high school, in high school essays, right? At least for me, I did not use much formatting in my high school essays. I didn't use bold, a lot of it was handwritten, right? So I couldn't really, I mean, I don't have good enough handwriting to bold something.

Or is that even a good form? How do you do that anyway? I don't know cuz I don't care. [LAUGH] I'm not writing missives to my colleagues, maybe I should. So this is an underutilized feature of people not using formatting to their advantage. You're under no restriction of being able to use formatting, and I encourage you to use lots of formatting in your doc.

Because it helps people draw their eyes and read little bits here and there. And those are like little hooks to people saying like, I imagine parties, most people skimmed us. And then you probably read the next sentence, or at least started to, right? Very common, so you can kind of use those as like jumping off points to, as we were talking about earlier, to unbury leads, right?

So headings, that's another good one, making sure you have a good format for getting headings on it. That's why I use headings all over my docs here, so that people that come by later can just kinda skim through as like, okay, I'm interested in bold and color, right?

But headings are really important for visual hierarchy. You see this, and you either made a decision really quickly like, I'm interested in why he chose to use headings here, I'm gonna read part of this, right? Or you're like, I get it, use headings, I agree with that, and I don't need to read more of that, right?

I already agree with his point there. It's a mini decision point to say like, I am either interested in this and I'm gonna read more about it, or I disagree with it and I'm not gonna be convinced now. Or, I agree with this, I need no more context, I'm moving on, right?

It's kind of like a secret weapon to not convince people that don't need convincing, right? So bold and color are your secret weapons, right? Adding bold helps a lot because it immediately draws your eye in here. And I'm gonna say that italicizing, you probably didn't even notice that that was italicized, immediately anyway.

So I'm gonna say you don't use italics the same way. You can use underlining, that's another one that can be helpful. And strikethrough is actually fairly effective for people to realize like, there's some something being crossed out here. Color can be a lot of fun too. The only thing I'm gonna say is a lot of us work for multinational companies.

And what you think a color means something in some culture is wildly different in a different culture. So I put a little infographic in here from Colors in Cultures, this is a weird infographic, it's hard to read. So this is actually a bad example of communication, in my opinion, but it was pretty, so I put it in here nonetheless.

But you can see here, A represents Western/America, so A1 is anger. So red means anger in these cultures. But in C, which is, Hindu, that means black means anger in that particular culture. The one that we love to use in business is red and green. Green means it went up, red means it went down.

It is the opposite in eastern cultures, right? So, in other words, if you're using color to convey meaning, in addition to drawing someone's eye, be extremely careful of who your audience is and where they're from. I've made that mistake, this is why I know that [LAUGH]. I got asked by a Japanese colleague why I was using red to mean bad.

When if you're looking a stock ticker in Japan, red means the stock went up that day.
>> Also a call out, red-green color blind, in an Excel doc, very hard to read.
>> Also a very good point, be careful with accessibility. There's a strong amount of percentage of people that have red-green color blindness as an addition to other kinds of color blindness.

Almost all text editors now provide the ability to add a table of contents. In a long doc, I suggest that so someone can kind of just read the information taxonomy at a glance. That's certainly useful, again, if you have a 20-pager, anything probably over like 3 pages. And then the last thing here is, and this is kind of fun.

This is gonna strongly depend on your company's culture. Some companies would view this as unprofessional. But for example, Snowflake loves them, we have emojis everywhere and on everything. And so your eye was probably drawn pretty quick to this. It was probably drawn pretty quick to that. Emojis can be kind of fun in a way to draw attention to particular parts of your document.

Again, don't be unprofessional, that's gonna depend strongly where you are. I imagine if you're in banking or medicine, that might be different. But at a large data company, it works pretty well.
>> I like using bullet points too.
>> Yeah, that's actually a really good call out here.

I use them, I probably overuse them. But it's really good way to separate, here's a point, here's a point, here's a point.
>> You don't have to go through sentences and get lost in a paragraph of stuff.
>> It allows you to say less. It's a good visual hierarchy tool for saying less, as opposed to having sentences that run into some sort of narrative.

It kind of allows you to separate your narrative into points. So yeah, that's totally great. Using an unordered list and an ordered list, that's something that people should think about. So bullet points are great when there's no necessary hierarchy. And then using like 1, 2, 3, 4, a, b, c, d, is great to communicate order.

>> Importance of why we should use them.
>> Most important, least important, whatever that is, or do these steps in these orders or something like that.

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