Electronic Publishing Tips and Tricks

Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Pix4free.org

For the past few months, I have been taking an Electronic Publishing course for my Library and Information Technician program. I am fairly tech-savvy; I run this website, employ social media to connect with my audience, and can use most MS Office and Google Workspace apps effectively. I thought that this course would just be a nice review of what I already knew, but wouldn’t necessarily teach me anything new.

I am delighted to say I was wrong! The field of electronic publishing is vast and ever-evolving. Not only have I learned some solid principles for presentation, I have also discovered a couple of hacks that have made my life easier. 

I want to share what I’ve learned with you so that you can share them with your students and kids. This may even help you the next time you have to do a work presentation!

Fonts tell a story. Kids instinctively know this. They love to play around with font size, colour and style. Like many adults, however, I had never given my font choice much thought. But fonts matter. A lot. They communicate values, feelings and attitudes to the reader without saying a word. The best illustration of this concept is this Valentine’s meme I found.

Same words. Entirely. Different. Message. 

I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know the difference between serif and sans serif fonts, let alone when best to use each. However, it is quite straightforward. 

Serif fonts have decorative lines or flourishes, aka serifs, at the end of a letter stroke. I think serifs look like little feet much of the time! 

Times New Roman is a well-known example of a serif font. Typically, serif fonts are used in more traditional media like newspapers, magazines and books. The serifs make the print more legible.

Sans serif, on the other hand, literally means without serifs, because, as all you francophones know, sans en français means without. Sans serif fonts tend to have a cleaner, less fussy look.

The most popular teacher’s font, Comic Sans, is a sans serif font. Sans serif fonts are generally used on web pages as the clean lines improve readability on a screen.

Serif fonts, as you might surmise, are more formal fonts, and tend to convey seriousness and trustworthiness. In contrast, sans serif fonts are more informal and relaxed, giving a youthful, trendy, approachable vibe. No wonder so many teachers unconsciously gravitate towards Comic Sans font!  

See how Google changed its logo from serif to sans serif font in 2013. Why do you think it switched fonts?

For more information about the Google font switch, check out this comprehensive BBC article entitled “Google Logo: Why do businesses change their typeface?”which does an excellent job analyzing why Google, an innovative, cutting edge company, would change from a formal serif font to an informal sans serif one.

On a more personal note, after learning about fonts and readability, I changed the body font on my website to Open Sans. When you know better, you do better!

It’s now ridiculously easy to find Creative Commons images on Google. I remember the days, (only a decade ago!), when I would teach students, (and sometimes the teachers!), about copyright and photos, point them in the direction of Wikimedia Commons or Flickr, and hope for the best. 

Invariably though, the vast majority of students, (and sometimes the teachers!), would google a search term, copy the first image they saw, and then paste it into their document or presentation. They’d smile. I’d sigh. 

No longer. You can quickly and easily find images with Creative Commons licences using the Google search engine. What is Creative Commons, you ask? Straight from their website

Creative Commons licenses give everyone from individual creators to large institutions a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law.

For more information about the 6 different types of Creative Commons licences, you can go here: https://creativecommons.org/about/cclicenses/.

It’s a simple 2-step process to find images that you can use in your academic and work life. 

  1. Enter your keyword(s) into the Google search box, and then select Images to limit your search results.

2. Click on the Tools button under the search box and then click on Usage Rights. From the drop-down menu, select Creative Common licences.

And that’s it! 

Avoiding death by PowerPoint is not so hard, either. We’ve all sat in lectures or classes or meetings where we’ve been lulled into a sleepy stupor by exceedingly dull and seemingly endless PowerPoint presentations. Perhaps we’ve even, *gulp*, delivered them. No more! 

There is an amazing, 20-minute TedX talk by internationally-renowned communications professional David JP Phillips entitled How to Avoid Death By PowerPoint. Watch it! 

https://youtu.be/Iwpi1Lm6dFo

Not only is Phillips a funny, engaging speaker, his principles of presentation are based in neuroscience, so you know that, if you follow his principles, your audience will be more engaged, retain more information and focus on you, the speaker. Since communication is Phillips’ passion and lifework, I cannot do justice to his insights here, but here are 5 of his techniques that will drastically improve your PowerPoint presentations.

1. One message per slide. Don’t divide the audience’s attention. 

2. No sentences! The audience will not retain anything if they are listening to you and  reading your slides at the same time. This is the redundancy effect; adding text to speech interferes with learning and retention.

3. Size matters. The most important part of your slides should be the largest. Rarely is it the title! Try making the body text larger than the title of your slides.

4. Contrast influences attention. You, the presenter, should be the focal point. Dark slide backgrounds — not stark white ones — are more relaxing to the audience, and will help them concentrate on you, the presenter. You can also use contrast by highlighting one point or object at a time on your slide to further focus the audience’s attention.

5. Only 6 objects per slide. Phillips postulates that more than 6 objects on a slide requires 500% more cognitive energy to understand it. He is very clear: “The amount of slides in your PowerPoint has NEVER been the problem. It is the amount of objects per slide which has been the problem.”

Lifelong learning is important to me, and I love to share what I’ve learned with others. Let me know if this information about fonts, Creative Commons licences and PowerPoint presentations has been helpful to you at home, in the classroom or your workplace!

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