Are spending unnecessary labor hours on document formatting?

How much does it cost to format a document?


Today, more than ever, companies are looking for ways to reduce Operating and Maintenance (O&M) costs. Although it is often overlooked, the labor associated with creating and updating documents can be significant and expensive. Equipment modifications, changes in technology, and ever-expanding regulatory requirements are just a few of the driving mechanisms that can require significant changes to documents and drive up costs.  That much is understandable, but, what if I told you that a significant portion of those labor hours are being devoted to formatting.  Thats right, the time spent formatting documents is probably increasing your labor costs.  Let me explain…

As a Supervisor for a commercial Nuclear Power Plant procedure group, I oversaw a group of writers that were all seasoned within their disciplines (operators, maintenance, process experts, etc.) but there were varying levels of MS Word experience among them.  In order to determine how much time writers were spending just to format documents within MS Word (manipulating headers, footers or auto-numbering schemes, adding emphasis, standard blocks of text, or special formatting, etc.) I performed a simple evaluation.

The evaluation method: Each employee recorded the number of hours dedicated just to format the text within their document. Pretty simple, I’m sure you would agree, but the result was surprising…

In short, document formatting is expensive!  The two most significant findings were:

  1. On average, 30 to 50% of the total document development labor hours were dedicated just to formatting. These results ranged due to the varying levels of MS-Word proficiency among the writers and the “as-found” issues within the document that were created over its own life-cycle (previous revisions)
  2. Many content technical errors were attributed to the distraction of formatting.

There are roughly 2,087 hours is a standard labor year.  Formatting doesn’t need to account for half or even 1/3rd or your writer’s time.

In an effort to help companies reduce the labor costs associated with document formatting Procedure Solutions Management will provide a monthly “How-To Format” series through our blog to help reduce the cost and improve the quality of formatting within documents. The focus application will be MS Word (in our experience this is the most common or consistent platform used by many corporations.) The series will address common challenges associated with formatting, i.e. auto-numbering, headers, footers, adding graphs, tables, photos, etc.

Please subscribe and share to learn how you or your team can increase efficiency, improve document quality, and lower your document development costs.

Formatting Your Resume for a Contract Position

Resume Format

Resume Formatting Tips and Suggestions that can make you more successful when applying for your next contract position.


The thought of creating a resume from scratch can be an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be.  Based on our experience, here are some key tips for making your resume top notch!

Quick Resume Tips

  • Tailor your resume to fit the job for which you are applying.  Analyze the requirements for the job, and if you meet those requirements, make sure your resume includes key words and phrases that support those requirements.
  • Make sure relevant information is at (or close to) the beginning of a sentence.  This will make it easy for the manager to scan your resume and determine that your skills are a good fit for the job.  Don’t clutter up your content with verbiage that really doesn’t help get across that you are a good candidate that meets or exceeds the job requirements.
  • Use a font that looks professional, is easy to read, and is 11 or 12 pitch in sizeArial size 11 is a favored choice.
  • Ensure you use at least one line of spacing between paragraphs and sections.  This makes your content much easier to read.
  • Avoid long run-on sentences……be brief and to the point.  Also, ensure that you use bullets when making lists.
  • Avoid using “complicated formatting”.   The formatting needs to be simple and easily edited so that your recruiter can make minor changes quickly.
  • Don’t get carried away.  Your resume should be limited to 3 or 4 pages.  Resumes that are much longer often do not get read completely by the hiring manager.

Basic Resume Layout

Based on our experience, we recommend using the following sections when formatting your resume:


  • The header should contain your “complete” first name, your complete middle name and your last name.  Recruiters often are required to provide clients with middle names.  For purposes of a resume, avoid using “nicknames”.
  • The header should also contain all of your contact information including your primary home street address, email address and best phone number for contacting you.


  • At the beginning of your resume, there should be a section highlighting your accomplishments…….especially those that are relevant to the desired job.
  • Use data points that prove your value and when citing numbers use the numerical form (90%) vs the written form (ninety percent).

Work Experience

  • Your work experience should be in “reverse” chronological order, starting with your latest employment.
  • Each new job in your work history should begin with your job title, name and location of the company, and employment dates.
  • For each entry, detail duties and accomplishments that are “relevant.”  Be as brief as possible while still providing the necessary information to highlight your skills.
  • Period(s) of Unemployment that are two years and longer, should be noted and a brief explanation of the employment gap(s) should be provided.


  • Your education history should include degrees that you have earned, including: the name of the University, Major, coursework relevant to the job, and any Honors.  Place more relevant degrees first.
  • For more experienced job seekers, education is generally not as important as work experience and can be placed below it in the resume layout.

Additional Skills

  • Listing additional skills, tools, software applications, spoken languages or software languages is important because every tool you use cannot usually be included in your work experience section.  These skill sets can also make your resume appear in search results when recruiters and hiring managers conduct candidate searches.

Interests and Awards

  • The interests and awards section is where you can show on paper who you are personally.  It’s important to highlight relevant personal accomplishments.  Be specific.


  • A reference section is not necessary for most resumes, but if you include one, say that your “References are available upon request”.    Then be able to quickly send requested references to your recruiter or hiring manager that includes names, titles and contact information.  Be sure that your references are aware that they may be contacted.

Don’t forget to spell check and grammar check your resume before sending it out.   It is also wise to have your work proof read by a trusted friend, who may suggest edits to improve your resume.

For Employment, Resume, and Interviewing Tips, please continue reading our blog.  Or, visit Employment Opportunities page for a list of our current job openings.

LEVEL OF DETAIL – Not just the Who, What, and How!

Think about the direction here. Is it providing the "what-to-do," of the "How-to-do," or neither?

Level of Detail.  Think about the direction here. Is it providing the right amount of “what-to-do” or “How-to-do?”  Is it falling short on both?

When writing a document (procedures or instructions) that is intended to provide direction, how do you know when you have the right amount of detail? Too much detail can cause the person doing the task, the performer, to focus more on what is written than the work actually being performed. On the opposite side, if insufficient detail is provided (“what-to-do”), the performer must obtain the “how” from somewhere, such as:

  • Engineering documents
  • Past experience
  • Peer
  • Prints or drawings
  • Procedures
  • Subject matter expert
  • Supervisor
  • Training
  • Vendor Manuals
  • Etc.

In all cases a balanced approach is critical for successful task execution or the human performance risk can negate the benefits of what the document was intended to accomplish.

As a writer it is critical to remember that for each and every step the performer has to obtain the “how” from somewhere. To create the balance between a step’s “What-to-do” and the “How-to-do” take into account the following considerations collectively for each and every step:

  1. At a minimum the task performer should be considered qualified although inexperienced and will have minimal or no direct supervisory input.
  2. Based on the simplicity of the task, the task performer is qualified and is capable of performing the task consistently error free independent of the human performance risk and does not need to rely on written instructions to be successful.
  3. As task complexity increases, the level of detail should rise, especially when a large number of actions are involved.
  4. As task frequency increases, the level of detail may lower. Although consideration should be given to the impact of complacency.
  5. Level of detail varies directly with the degree of standardization required. Increasing the level of detail provides more standardization and more consistent results.
  6. The level of detail should be increased as the risk of personal injury, equipment damage, and potential regulatory challenges rises.

For more information on Level of Detail and other Procedure Writing Tips, continue reading our blog.  Or visit our training page for more information on our PPA Certification Course PLUS.