Friday, November 20, 2009

Use hanging indents properly on your PowerPoint slides

I saw it again this week so I need to comment on the incorrect use of hanging indents on PowerPoint slides. Here’s what happens. The presenter wants to have text on the slides, but doesn’t want it to be in bullets. It might be a quote or other text that is not bulleted. So they use the bullet slide layout and simply deselect the bullet formatting and start typing away. The problem? The first line of the text is set to the left of the rest of the text, making it look strange. The audience wonders what’s wrong with the text and pays less attention to the message.

The problem is caused by the text placeholder still having a hanging indent format from when it assumed bullets were being placed there. It sets the first line further left than the rest of the lines. This formatting causes further problems if you ever copy this slide into a new presentation or update the look with a new template. Since PowerPoint thinks you are using a bulleted list, it reformats your text as bulleted text and now you have a slide that doesn’t look like it used to.

What should you do instead? When you want to create a slide that has non-bulleted text, start by selecting a layout that does not include a bullet point placeholder. Select either the Title only or Blank layouts. Then add a text box and format it so it has the size, font and colors that you want. Now the text will have a consistent left margin and the text will not be reformatted if the design template changes in the future.

Properly formatting the text on your slides is one of the small things you can do that will make your presentations more effective.


Blogger Ed said...

You're right! People do this so much it hurts. I think the problem is that it isnt all that clear how to remedy the situation unless you are very familiar with the intricacies of Powerpoint.

This will help people though!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Gavin Meikle, Trainer, Speaker & Coach said...

Great Tip David. I see this a lot and your explanation of how to avoid it is the clearest and simplest I have come across.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Julie Terberg said...

Great tip Dave! Another text formatting tip for professional looking quotes: the first quote mark (open quote) should hang to the left of the rest of the text block. Make the ruler visible so you can manually adjust the indent marker.

6:12 PM  

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