Formatting content: looks can kill

Are you losing readers in 3 seconds or less?

Formatting your content

You’re in the middle of an engrossing book -- a big reveal is about to be made!

You flip the page eagerly and your eyes widen with anticipation: what’s going to happen next?! Then you groan miserably …. The entire next page is written up as one big block.

One massive paragraph. 

It might as well be a brick wall. You stop reading, close the book and head to the kitchen for a snack.

Content formatting: it progresses readers or stops them in their tracks 

The best website content and online article formats are *skimmable*.

Heartbreaking, we know.

However, as much as you want people to read every single word, most people just don’t have the:

  • Time
  • Patience 
  • Attention span 

Life is happening fast and the onslaught of interruptions is never ending.

When your readers encounter a long paragraph, just like the reader in our intro, they tend to shut down. Yet, online readers are even more fickle when it comes to content formatting.

Keep your readers with skimmable, bite-sized content

If there is too much going on visually -- busy design and/or screeds of texts -- your readers will get overwhelmed and leave your website in a matter of seconds. With so little time to impress, it pays to update your formatting for online readers. 

We recommend trying these 6 techniques to make your web content pop:

1. Great titles grab readers by the eyeballs

Outside of your images, titles are generally the first thing a reader will look at when visiting your website or blog page. Considerably larger in size than the rest of your content, titles should instantly capture your reader's attention.

Be clever, informative but not too revealing. If you’re reader feels like they’ve “gotten the gist” of your article just by reading the title, there’s no value in continuing. If there’s nothing more to say, why would you keep reading?

2. Subheads take your reader by the hand

If your title did it’s job, your reader is ready to skim your content. 

Subheads tell your reader what they can learn from you. They also guide your reader through your content  by serving as visual signposts. 

For example: you’ve strung together a group of short paragraphs that are really making a solid point. Now it's time to make your second point …

Break up your text with me, a subhead!

A great subhead should tell your reader about the content that follows in a way that makes it difficult jump to the next webpage.

3. Short, simple sentences advance your story

So your reader digs your titles and subheads, now it’s time to flex those writing muscles. 

Keep it simple, but personable with plain language.

Each sentence should be as strong as the last and advance your story or argument. Paragraphs, should be no more than two to three sentences in length, focused on a single point. In fact, we recommend you learn to embrace one-sentence paragraphs. White space is your friend.

4. Break down complex ideas with bullet points or lists

We love lists.

Why? Because lists and bullets points are another way to break up content so it’s skimmable. For instance, if you didn’t read any of the content in this article, but just read the titles, subheads and lists, you would know the bare minimum. You're about to read content related to:

  • Titles 
  • Subheads 
  • Simple sentences 
  • Lists 
  • Bolding 
  • Text callouts  

If this point was offered up in the form a traditional paragraph, you’d have taken a bit longer to get through the information in this section -- or maybe wandered off to the kitchen to grab a snack.

5. Be bold and you’ll get noticed

works effectively as it draws the eye into a particular section of your website or article.

Yet, you’ll want to make sure to use bolding sparingly. 

Too much bold text loses impact and overwhelms the eye. Don’t leave your reader wondering: “Is it a pattern? Is there a secret message? Oh, man -- I don’t care.”

6. Text callouts offer

How else can you break up space on a web page to increase your content’s skimmability factor? Say hello to text callouts, yet another weapon in your web writing toolbox.

When you want to illustrate a strong quote or a particular point of interest of your work, a text callout gives the reader a visual 

Yet, make sure to keep text callouts to a minimum as too many on a page will confuse your reader.

Put these tips into practice!

Finding the right formatting balance takes time, particularly if you feel like writing for the web is not “your thing”. However, applying the 6 techniques we’ve covered here will help you make leaps and bounds!

If you find formatting your website or article content is something you’d rather leave to someone else, our writers are always up for a challenge! Ready to make a winning first impression with your online content? Get in touch today.


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