Headings mark off different sections of your document (or page) and can be extremely useful as an organizational tool both for yourself as a writer and for your readers. Thoughtful headings can give structure to a document and even help in revision: if one section has very little body text under it’s heading, it’s a sign to rethink that section. Do you need to do more research or would that section work better as a subsection under another heading?
The structure of your headings should flow out of the content of your work. If, for example, you were writing a paper that described an ongoing process, your headings might refer to the stages of the process. When writing about literature, headings might divide your analytical work from sections giving background.
What’s the difference between headings and headers?
Headings are distinct from “headers”, the place where you’re often asked to put your last name and page number when writing an essay. Generally speaking, headers are a form of access which help your reader navigate a document with the help of page numbers or other markers. Headers are usually mandated by your professor, genre, or the publication you’re writing for, while headings are often left to the discretion of the writer.
Different Types of Headings
Below are the different levels of headings and text you may want to implement in your document:
Of the multiple heading-types you will use in your document, the title text should be the largest. This makes it easy for the title to stand-out in relation to the body text, and gives context for the entire document to follow. The font-sized for the “title” heading should not be used again in the document. A 36 pt. font is generally a good choice for title text.
For the main ideas of the document, a 24 pt. font is a good choice. The central headings should be smaller in size than the title text, but still large enough to stand out and divide the document into individual sections. In this page, the four parts of the HATS acronym are given their own headings under the same font size, for consistency.
Using a smaller font-size than the main, text headings, but still larger than the body text, is good for marking subdivisions in the main ideas of the text. In a paper or document, 18 pt. font is usually a good choice for a subheading, and you can also bold the heading’s text to make it stand out.
Writing words or phrases in italics is a good way to draw attention to important ideas within the document without separating the phrases from the body text. To make accent text distinct within a paragraph, it’s a good idea to put the word or phrase in 16 pt. font.
The body text forms the main content of the document, broken into paragraphs beneath the headings. It’s important to choose a boring font from size 11 to 16 to make the body text as readable as possible. Generally, readability requires finding a medium weight font that has little stroke variation.
How to Create and Customize Headings in Microsoft Word – This video outlines how to use the heading manager in Microsoft Word, and discusses why the tool is important to use in designing documents.
Google Docs: Headers and Footers – This is a good resource for formatting your documents through Google Docs with easy and clear “headers”.