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Uses and formats of printed information materials

The format (page size?, bound or unbound?) chosen for a publication depends on its intended use and the audience or readership. Here are some things to think about when planning a publication.


Printed information materials are needed for a variety of uses.

  • Training materials — for use during formal and informal training courses
  • Teaching materials — for trainees to use, in turn, to teach other people
  • Reference materials — for trainees to refer to as needed after the course, or by people who have not attended training

Some materials need to fulfill only one of these functions. Others may need to fulfill more than one. The format depends on the use: loose-leaf materials may be better suited as handouots during a training session, but are not very handy for reference: they get out of order easily. For reference materials, a table of contents is vital, and an index is very useful.

Choose a format that will best fulfil the uses you envisage for the materials.


readingcPrinted information materials are useful for a variety of audiences:    

  • Trainees in training courses
  • Teachers
  • University students
  • Schoolchildren
  • NGO staff
  • Extension personnel
  • Journalists
  • Local people
  • Local and national government officials
  • The "interested public"

Design your materials with the audience in mind. For schoolchildren, use large type and lots of pictures. For semiliterate people, keep the words and sentences short, and make sure the pictures carry the message even if the words do not. For busy government officials, structure the information so the most important things come first.


Printed information materials can take a variety of formats. Each has advantages and disadvantages.


Each topic is printed on a separate sheet. As far as possible, each topic fills only one sheet (front and back). The materials are printed on heavy paper to ensure long life. The paper can be color-coded for easy reference.

Advantages Disadvantages 
  • Can be updated easily
  • Easy to copy and use in training
  • Pages get lost and out of order
  • Expensive to print and mail because uses heavy paper

Bound books

The materials are printed as a single, bound book. Topics are grouped into chapters and sections.

Advantages  Disadvantages 
  • Pages don’t get lost
  • Handy format, easy to carry
  • Cheaper than loose-leaf to produce and mail because paper is lighter
  • Hard to reproduce or update


The materials are printed as a series of thin, pocket-size booklets, with one booklet per topic or subject area.

Advantages  Disadvantages 
  • Topics easy to refer to
  • Easy to carry and reproduce
  • Can be updated or added to easily
  • Booklet can contain more information than a single sheet
  • Smaller size restricts use of illustrations
  • More complicated to produce than single sheets

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