Many writers including bloggers, book authors, web site owners, and product creators make reading their articles and copy difficult. Of course, they don’t try to test the patience of their readers – they just don’t know better. They don’t realize what it takes to make great readable narrative online!
I’d like to cover a few things that can be done in writing for the Internet to make your presented material easier to read, easier to understand, and a more pleasant experience.
You can use what follows as a sort of check list to make sure you are providing your audience with the best possible experience.
The backbone of your article will be it’s structure.
- Keep each paragraph to a single main thought or point. Yes, you can do some elaboration, fine tuning, and support of that idea; but don’t try to stuff multiple ideas into a single paragraph.
- Be consistent when you abbreviate, add section headers, use proper names, underline, italicize, or bold text.
- Make full use of an outline format with titles, headings, subheadings, ordered and unordered lists, consistent indentation, etc.
- Be sure to leave plenty of “white space” top, bottom, left and right. Start new chapters and sections on a new page. There are few things that make reading more difficult than crammed together text and tiny margins.
- Order your written support elements as follows: most important point —-> least important point.
- Include an introduction and a summary conclusion with each main section (chapter).
The next area you should be concerned about after structure is the language that you “speak” in.
- Always use a tone that will not be offensive to your audience. Except in rare circumstances, you should avoid swearing, religious and racial slurs, offensive nicknames, industry jargon (unless the material is directed only to that industry), and slang or derogatory terms.
- Avoid too many repetitive sentence structures. Vary the way you write so the reader doesn’t tire of your writing.
- Be concise and straightforward. Make your case with points that don’t wander or are off topic. If a paragraph has five sentences and you can say the same thing with three sentences – do it!
- Be consistent with your verb tenses. I know it’s difficult, especially if you don’t have formal training in English grammar. If you begin by speaking in the present tense just be careful you don’t switch back and forth to the past tense – it’s very annoying.
- Many writers get caught in the trap of wandering in their narrative. With every point you make (every new paragraph) you should ask yourself if this thought adds to or distracts from the overall case you’re trying to make. If it isn’t relevant, don’t include it. If it doesn’t support or add to the main thought, get rid of it.
The third area that will make your articles an easier read is the presentation or display of the words on the page.
- Choose your main narrative type face font and size carefully. Some fonts are notoriously difficult to read. Be sure to be consistent through the article or blog post. Some favorite fonts are Arial, Tahoma, New Century Roman, Helvetica, Georgia, and Verdana. I like font sizes 11 and 12 (pt) for most applications.
- It’s quite all right to vary the font face (style) and size in your headings and subheadings, but again, be consistent with each level in your framework (outline). If you’re using a sans serif font for your narrative body type, try a serif font for your headings and vice versa.
- When formatting your page (and this was already mentioned once above), be sure to purposefully incorporate lots of white space on every page. In physical publishing this is more difficult as it increases the amount of pages that have to be printed. However, in digital publishing there really is no good reason why you shouldn’t design your presentation with generous blank areas on each page.
- The use of limited color can be a good thing. Just don’t overdo it. Headings and highlights can be colored for emphasis, but I would limit the use of color (not including color images) to maybe two or three different colors at most. Don’t color the main narrative text – black is always the standard. Black text on a white background is as good as it gets for reading ease and contrast.
- For longer articles and reports, I would suggest employing a table of contents with linked navigation. It’s easy to do (and can be done automatically with “styles” once you learn how to use your word processor.
Use a consistent “voice” or persona in your writing – and let your personality and openness shine!
- Don’t be afraid to speak with your readers like you would speak with a friend in all the writing you do. They will come to recognize your style and “voice” and see you as a unique personality and friend.
- Don’t fret over perfect sentence and paragraph rules … it’s much more important to get your points across in a way that shows you are a genuine caring person.
- Don’t forget that prospects usually make purchases from those that they know, like, and trust. It’s through your writing that your audience will come to know you and appreciate your style. In fact, many will look forward to hearing from you because you write in a uniquely human way.
- Readability is often linked to the interest of the reader in the subject matter. Your audience will find your writing very readable if it is interesting and relevant to what they are looking for. If the topic of your writing is boring, not relevant, or too technical, most readers will have a difficult time staying attentive and “tuned in.”
Every step you take to make your writing more readable will be appreciated by your audience and it will encourage them to stay longer on your site. If a new prospect that doesn’t know you is seeing your writing for the first time … he/she will want more because your writing will be extraordinary when compared to most of the boring and valueless rehashed dribble that is online today!
There are other things you can do to make your articles and posts easier to read. We will talk about some of those in another discussion.
To your online business success!