When you went to school, your teachers taught you to write in a specific way.
State your premise, tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you just said. The typical essay format.
And that way of writing is great, but when it comes to writing for the web, long paragraphs don’t work. Nobody reads them.
The majority of content is skimmed. Glanced over. It only gets fully digested if it passes the skim test.
Consciously or not, you are looking to save mental energy. You want to get the facts without all the work.
Our brains are designed to conserve energy so they take shortcuts.
And in a world with too much information, nobody reads on the web anymore. At least, not like you think they do.
The way to get your information read in a digital world is to format it in a way that people can easily digest.
So how do you write content that gets read online?
There are a few rules of thumb:
- Short paragraphs – people skim the first part of your sentence in each paragraph to see if it has value. If not, they jump to the next one.
- Headings – people skim headings down a page and then go back to read more if it looks interesting.
- Bullets and numbered lists – see a trend here? Quick, easily digested information.
- Bold and italics – show me where the goods are and for heaven’s sake – don’t make me read everything to find it!
- Write about your reader – use “you-centric” wording wherever possible. People care mostly about their own needs. Talk about your reader and they will pay more attention.
- Cut the fluff – look for any words that don’t need to be there and chop.
- Write like you speak – you can still be professional, but make sure your writing sounds like someone actually said it.
- Tell stories – once we start reading a story, it’s really hard to stop. We’re hard-wired that way. Just keep it interesting.
There are lots of other methods you can use, but you probably aren’t reading everything in this email anyway. Don’t worry though – these are the main things to know.
Hopefully, you skimmed this article and got the good bits.
If you did, it’s probably because I made it easy to read and digest.