Making a Word Document 'Pretty'

Author(s): Brandy Perkl, Ph.D.

Originally posted: February 17, 2015

I get asked by students a lot how to make a document look ‘professional’ or ‘pretty’ (without needing a design degree). So I made a video that shows me taking a student’s academically correct paper and formatting it into an attractive Word document which could be shown off to non-academics with pride.

It’s about 23 minutes long – but the basics are covered pretty early. I just take the extra minutes to remind you to take advantage of student software discounts at the beginning and show you some slightly more advanced tricks at the end.


If you’re completely new to Word, Microsoft has a bunch of good tutorials (and you can search YouTube for videos as well) – here’s a link to training for Word 2013 which is the software I used in my video.

  1. Take advantage of software discounts (UA Students, I’m talking to you).

  2. I didn’t mention this in the video because I was taking an academic document to an executive one, but if you can you should always start with a template. (Google Docs now has some gorgeous options.)

  3. Apply a Theme.

  4. Set your Styles.

  5. Use formatting to make your points and ‘jazz it up’. This can just mean adding bold and italics, setting quotes apart, etc. with the Styles talked about in the previous step or using fancier things like photos and Smart Art.

  6. Tweak until it looks generally aesthetically pleasing and the colors are all appropriate! (And I hope this goes without saying, but NO COMIC SANS.)

  7. Save as a PDF before you send it out so all your hard work stays the way you put it, even if someone without the same software opens it.

Image sourced by the author.