The written word has been developed and refined so that text can be read at speed. In today's online world, with so much information and distraction, people don't actually read, instead they skim read.
Incredibly, the earliest examples of writing had no spaces between words, making reading an arduous and time consuming task. Spaces between words were eventually introduced, then punctuation, followed by paragraphs. People were suddenly able to "read quickly, silently and with greater comprehension" (Nicholas Carr, 'The Shallows').
Fast forward to today and most of our reading is done online, in an environment where our attention is dragged from one thing to another in quick succession. Facebook notifications, emails, adverts, tweets, the list goes on.
With our attention jumping around like this, we devote less time to reading online content. Instead, we want to identify the main ideas of an article as quickly as possible, so we skim read.
Make your blog post easy to skim read
As content creators, our minimum goal is for our articles to be read, but what we aim for is for people to engage with our writing. One way to help achieve this, is for the article to be written in a way that makes it easy to skim read.
Subheadings do two things that aid reading; they signpost what the content is and where the article is heading. Secondly, they break up the body of text into manageable chunks.
If you can glance down the page and get an idea of what the article is about, your subheadings are doing their job.
Write in short paragraphs
Writing in shorter, punchier paragraphs makes it much easier for the reader to skim.
One of the things we do when skim reading is look at the first few words of a new paragraph. Doing this helps us gauge the content of that paragraph and whether it is of interest.
The BBC website is very good at this. Their articles rarely have a paragraph containing more than one sentence.
Bullet points are an excellent way of presenting a series of items, allowing the reader to quickly get a grasp of whatever it is you are trying to communicate.
For instance, you may have three reasons that support a point of view. Rather than incorporating them all within a paragraph, it may be easier for the reader if you listed them as bullet points:
- Reason number one
- The second reason
- Third reason
Reading online is fraught with distractions, which is why content creators need to ensure that articles are as easy to skim read as possible. As we have seen, this doesn't mean compromising on the quality of writing.
Once your article is finished, spend a few minutes reviewing it to make sure the above techniques are present. Your readers will thank you for it.