Taking notes is one thing. But transforming those raw scribbles into an organized, easy-to-navigate set of notes is a skill all its own. With the right formatting, you can turn your notes from an incomprehensible jumble of words into a clean, polished document that allows you to find key information at a glance.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the elements of effective note formatting and how to implement them for maximum readability. You’ll learn formatting tips for everything from fonts and headers to bullets and tables. We’ll also look at how note taking apps like Supernormal provide custom templates that automate proper formatting based on meeting type, saving you time while optimizing note clarity.
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to format notes like a pro—making your notes not just easy to capture, but easy to comprehend long after the meeting has ended.
Choose Your Fonts Wisely
Let’s start with typography 101. The fonts you choose can make a huge impact on the readability of your notes. Here are some quick tips on picking note-friendly fonts:
- Go sans serif. Serif fonts like Times New Roman may look nice in print, but for digital notes, sans serif fonts like Arial or Calibri are easier on the eyes. The clean, simple letterforms have greater clarity on screens.
- Watch your font size. Don’t go smaller than 10pt font. Keep it at 11pt or 12pt for maximum readability. Small fonts might let you cram more text onto the page, but they ultimately hurt comprehension.
- Limit font styles. Using too many fonts leads to a disjointed looking document. Stick to one or two complementary fonts—one for headers and one for body text works nicely.
- Embrace bold and italics. Use boldface or italics sparingly to emphasize important text and make key points stand out. But don’t overdo it.
Following these font formatting tips will make your notes easier to read and reference—right from the first glance.
Structure Notes with Headers
Headers give notes structure and organization. They provide visual signposts that orient the reader, breaking up walls of text into digestible chunks.
Effective header formatting is key. Be consistent with header levels, formatting, and placement:
- Establish a hierarchy. Use headings and sub-headings to divide topics and sub-topics. H1 tags indicate main topics, H2 for subtopics, H3 for sub-subtopics, and so on.
- Format headings clearly. Make sure headers stand out from body text. Strategic use of size, color, style, and spacing creates clear visual separation.
- Place headers thoughtfully. Put headers above the content they introduce. Use “white space”—or blank lines—to further distinguish them from the text below.
With clear headers, readers can easily scan your notes and zero in on the sections most relevant to them. Thoughtful header formatting transforms notes from an impenetrable mass of text into a navigable resource.
Direct Reader Attention with Bullets and Numbers
Lists—bullets and numbered—further enhance note navigation and readability. Their vertical orientation and ample spacing make them easier to scan than paragraphs. Strategic lists also focus attention and strengthen comprehension. Here are some tips:
- Use bullets for unordered lists. Bullets excellently highlight loose categories, action items, traits, examples—anything without a defined sequence.
- Choose numbers for step-by-step points. Numbered lists are ideal for chronological sequences, step-by-step instructions, and ranked priorities.
- Limit items per list. Readers tire of lengthy lists. For maximum impact, keep most lists to 4-6 items.
- Use consistent formatting. Keep list formatting uniform. Use the same spacing, punctuation style, and capitalization across all lists for a polished look.
Lists banish monotony from your notes. They add visual interest while directing readers’ attention—improving the overall clarity and stickiness of the content.
Tabulate Data for Instant Clarity
For certain types of information—like event schedules, statistics, comparisons, and some process flows—visualizing data in tables makes notes exponentially more readable. Tables organize complex data into an at-a-glance format. The rows, columns, and cells provide structure for easier comprehension.
Follow these best practices for clear, effective tables:
- Align cells properly. Align text to the left and numerical data to the right for easy scanning.
- Watch white space. Add ample padding around text within cells for greater readability. Avoid crowding.
- Right-size columns. Make columns only wide enough for the expected content. Avoid excessively wide columns.
- Add visual elements sparingly. Lines between rows or color coding can enhance tables, but use them consistently and minimize visual clutter.
Tables might take a bit more work than prose, but their impact on note clarity is profound. Use them wherever appropriate to transform disorganized data into digestible information.
Call Out Key Points with Highlights
Highlights in your notes emphasize important points with color. Highlighting strategically can significantly improve note navigation and recall. Here are some tips for effective highlighting:
- Limit highlights. Only highlight the most critical words, phrases, or numbers. Over-highlighting reduces effectiveness.
- Avoid huge chunks. Highlight concise snippets, not entire paragraphs or walls of text. Keep it scannable.
- Use color strategically. Yellow is standard, but colors like blue and green are just as readable with less harsh contrast.
- Review highlights afterward. Scan just the highlights to reinforce key takeaways. The color coding sticks in your brain.
A few well-placed highlights steer readers’ limited attention to the points that matter most. When used judiciously, highlights can make notes pop.
Custom Templates Streamline Proper Formatting
Manually formatting notes for each new meeting takes major effort. Fortunately, apps like Supernormal provide custom templates that automate proper note formatting.
Based on the meeting type and expected contents, Supernormal applies the ideal layout and formatting—including fonts, headers, lists, and tables. Templates save time while ensuring your notes follow best practices for maximum clarity every time.
Some key benefits of Supernormal templates:
- Consistent structure. Templates provide consistent organization tailored to meeting purpose.
- Optimized elements. Templates implement fonts, colors, white space, etc. proven optimal for comprehension.
- Faster documentation. Templates eliminate manual formatting, letting you focus on content.
- Professional polish. Templates make notes look clean and meticulously formatted.
With Supernormal, your notes format themselves! The custom templates handle all the formatting details, empowering you to focus on the meeting discussion.
Formatting for Readability: Wrap Up
Note taking isn’t just about recording information—it’s about transforming that raw input into an organized, navigable resource. Applying the right formatting is crucial to crafting notes that are comprehensible, actionable, and ready to reference.
By strategically implementing fonts, headers, lists, tables, and highlights, you can optimize notes for maximum clarity and scannability. Formatting gives notes structure and directs readers’ limited attention to the most critical points—improving comprehension and recall.
Automate Formatting Using AI
Apps like Supernormal make proper formatting easy. Their custom templates automatically optimize notes based on meeting types and discussion content. From one-on-ones, sales calls, client syncs, and team meetings, Supernormal templates ensure your documentation is polished, professional, and primed for use.
With these tips, you can approach note formatting like a pro. Your notes will become not just a verbatim record, but a readable, navigable reference able to serve your needs long after the meeting has adjourned.