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UMGC Effective Writing Center Introduction to PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is the most widely used presentation tool in the world.

And the most misused.

The reason for its misuse can be stated simply: PowerPoint is not Microsoft Word, although many use it that way when trying to write their presentation and design their slides at the same time. Important rule: "Write it first, design it second."

PowerPoint slides aren't documents with bullets.

Write out what you want to say. Extract main points as if for an outline. Put only these main points on slides with graphics.  Remember:


And that is the first reason you should never read from a PowerPoint: they are slideshows, not documents. Reading from a slide is a big no-no because:

PowerPoint & The Modality Effect

One key to an effective PowerPoint presentation is the Modality Effect. The modality effect states: Verbal information is processed more effectively when narrated with a graphic instead of presented as text with a graphic. The modality effect implies that PowerPoint slides are meant for graphics, not merely a way to present your text.

PowerPoint & The Redundancy Principle

Another key to effective PowerPoint presentations is the Redundancy Principle: The human brain cannot process identical simultaneous inputs. Occasionally reading a sentence from a slide can be effective for emphasis. However, reading aloud results in cognitive confusion for the audience: The brain's two processing channels (auditory and visual) cannot process the identical, simultaneous inputs. As a result, the audience tunes or shuts down to reduce the confusion.

Since PowerPoint slides form the basis of most presentations today, it is important that the following principles be incorporated in your PowerPoint.

PowerPoint & Design Rules

Apply the basic principles of graphic design: Visual SPD, which stands for visual space, visual progression and visual differentiation. 

  • Space: providing adequate white space between parts of a slide so that each is distinct.
  • Progression: providing hierarchy to parts by consistently using numbers, bullets, and indentation for lists.
  • Differentiation: giving distinction to chunks with colors (type colors and fill colors), sizes, and shapes.

There is also a PowerPoint-specific design guideline that we would like for you to follow in this workshop:

  • Five-by-Five Rule: No more than five bullets per slide. In addition, there should be no more than 1 line per bullet and no more than 5-9 words per line.
Image Still for Video: The Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint

"The Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint"

Follow along with YouTuber Technology with Teachers as they show you everything you need to know to get started with Microsoft PowerPoint--learn the basics, including choosing a theme, adding text and pictures, creating new slides, animating items, and more.


PowerPoint & Speaker Notes

Remember that you need to consider what you will say during your presentation.  It is customary to insert your what you will say while each slide is being displayed (i.e., your script) into the speaker notes.

Please use the following steps and the video to help you find and insert text into the Speaker Notes.

  1. First, locate the speaker notes expansion tab on the bottom right of the PPT work area when you are in edit mode. Click once and the notes area will open up.
  2. Next, copy and paste your pre-written text from your document into the area that says, “Click to add notes.”
  3. To see the text and edit it, first click on the View tab on the top toolbar. Then in the Presentation Views grouping, select Notes Page. Now you can see the full text and edit it.  (Note: This technique is important when editing large portions of text in the speaker notes area.)
  4. Again, click on the Notes tab to expand. Copy and paste your full text for this slide into the area marked “Click to Add notes.”
Image Still for Video: PowerPoint: How to Edit Speaker Notes with "Notes View"

PowerPoint: How to Edit Speaker Notes with "Notes View"

When adding large portions of text to the Speaker Notes area of a PowerPoint presentation, it is important to use the "Notes View" function. PowerPoint's "Notes View" function allows you to edit Speaker Notes as if you were editing a document.



Please produce two slides:

  1. The first slide should be your presentation's title slide, also sometimes called the "welcome slide." It is what participants see when they enter the room.
  2. The second slide should be part of your presentation's body. Generally, all body sides have the same basic formatting.  Also, they should contain what you will say during the presentation (i.e., your script) in the Speaker Notes.

Please attach your slides to a reply for feedback.

Other Powerpoint Resources

See other resources that the UMGC Effective Writing Center has collected to help you make a great presentation.

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