Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information


October 1998


A Reader Asks for More

Thanks to Bob Taylor, Ag Economics, for his question about text size for a presentation on your computer screen.

Bob referred to a July 1998 "On Target" piece, "Oh Say Can You See." The article suggests that the next time you prepare your message for a PowerPoint or Web-based presentation, you should stand about eight feet away from your computer screen. If you can read it, then there's a good chance your audience will be able to see it, too.

Well, Bob questioned us on that one. Does it depend on the size of the screen? Aren't there other variables? While the rule above is good for general use, some people might want more specific text-size guidelines for electronically based presentations and transparency overheads.

Pam Lassiter, Ag Communication, who's put together more than a few (hundred) presentations, has another rule of thumb for overheads. To test for legibility, put your hard copy on the floor and stand over it. If you can read it from the floor, it should work for your audience. (And no, Dr. Taylor, we're not going to get into how tall you should be for this to work. It's just a rule of thumb, after all--a thumb of average length.)

You want something more precise? We've got it. The following numbers may help you size your type for your audiences.

If your audience will be five feet way from your projected message, the letter size on a printed copy should be AT LEAST 1/4 inch in height, and the line thickness of each letter should be 1/16 inch. At 20 feet, the letter size should be 3/4 inch, and the line thickness should be 1/8 inch. At 50 feet, they should be 1 3/4 inches and 5/16 inch, respectively.

Was that a little too precise? What we're basically saying here is to keep increasing letter height and thickness the further your audience is from your visual.

Some of this information came from "Instructional Media," Third Edition, by Heinrich, Molenda, and Russell. Macmillan Publishing Co., NY, p 82.


Super Newsletters: Giving Readers What They Want

This article is adapted from "Creating Super Newsletters: A Training Curriculum for Cooperative Extension Staff," Module 2, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, June 1997.

What do people want to read about? That's always the most important question. Even within the parameters of a newsletter (which, we hope, is supported by a Plan of Work or several Plans of Work), it is important to understand some general human reading preferences.

In general, people like to read articles that:

People like to read "news" Ņa report of something that is new (at least to them). And what makes something news, you ask?

Look for more on this topic next month..

If you have questions, please email me, or call me at 765-494-6946.


Virtual Meeting Works for Two Educators

Jerry Nelson, Knox County, and Ralph Booker, Marshall County, put to good use something they discovered at the National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) this summer.

First, the background. Nelson and Booker wanted to use PowerPoint for a presentation they were slated to make at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) in San Antonio. The problem was how to work together on the presentation when their offices were 200 miles apart. They both wanted to see the presentation, which was on Jerry's computer in Knox County, and discuss changes.

Now, the NETC nugget. While at NETC, they'd been impressed by a demonstration of Internet Explorer's Netmeeting. So they put it to work for them. Here's the step by step.

Step 1. They both logged onto the Internet and Microsoft's Netmeeting at an agreed-upon time.

Step 2. Jerry initiated the meeting by email, which sent Ralph a message that Jerry wanted to talk with him. In a modern version of Bell and Watson's famous exchange, Ralph said, "Hello" into his computers microphone, and--presto--they were talking to each other.

Step 3. By clicking on the "chat box" option in Netmeeting, they could see what each other typed.

Step 4. Jerry opened PowerPoint on his computer and then the presentation they were working on. By clicking the "share file" option, Ralph could also open the Powerpoint presentation from his Marshall County office.

Step 5. From that point on, the two of them could see the text and change it, and both of them could save the presentation when their session was over. This five-step process required that they both have access to the Internet, PowerPoint, and Internet Explorer Netmeeting --but it didn't require gas, lodging, and travel time.


Grammar Trap: Underway vs. Under Way

Remember last month's "Grammar Trap," in which I referred to the "one word if it's indefinite and two if it's specific rule" to explain the difference between "anyone" and "any one"? Well, that rule won't help you choose between "underway" and "under way."

What will help is to know that there is one case--and only one--in which you use "underway." That's when you're using the word as an adjective before a noun in a nautical context.

Example: The underway convoy was attacked.

In all other cases, even nautical ones, you use two words.

Examples: Plans for his surprise party are under way. The convoy is under way.

Thanks to Vic Herr, Ag Communication, for setting me straight on this one.

If there's a grammar or usage trap you'd like me to discuss or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.


We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

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