There were no subheads in the article.
There were no lists of items in the document.
It was thousands of words—important, necessary and well-written words.
But few will read or comprehend the article due to the way people read content on Internet websites, social media and often while reading on a smartphone.
It’s similar to crossing a lake or stream in a boat. Your reader wants to smoothly and efficiently glide across the water and arrive at a destination. If readers don’t know how to paddle the canoe or row the boat, they might find themselves paddling in a circle, veering off to the left or right, or not moving at all.
Well-written articles and stories—formatted for online consumption—can provide readers with a quick, easy and efficient experience. Satisfied readers comprehend more about your product or service. When your business or organization serves its readers—customers or potential customers—your retention and referrals will increase.
However, publishing text on the Internet requires a different approach than publishing in a newspaper or magazine, brochure, postcard or book.
People skim text on websites, especially if they are in a hurry to find information. If you’re making a purchase or you’re trying to solve an urgent problem, there often isn’t enough time to read every word. You can assist these readers by writing a clear and short subhead when introducing new ideas or concepts in the article. Limit information to a few sentences or two to three paragraphs. Short sentences are easier to read and comprehend.
Determine if your information might be best communicated in a list. A numbered or bulleted list provides the reader with a checklist to review or a sequence of steps to be completed. Presenting survey results in a bulleted list provides the reader with a simple and fast way to review the information, rather than reading the information in a paragraph.
Long-Form Articles Will Remain
Some people enjoy reading every word and savor the experience of consuming long-form content. The Internet, smartphones and tablets provide readers with a never-ending stream of articles and stories to read. Many skimmers also enjoy reading a long-form article on a tablet or desktop computer. Plus, reading and studying some documents on tablets gives readers the ability to search for particular words, keywords or highlight text. The tools and functionality save time and effort for students and others conducting research.
It’s Not Writer Versus Reader
Your business or organization’s approach must focus on its customers—readers. Writers and editors must always serve and help the reader—or customer. It shouldn’t be a burden for writers to always be mindful of readers. A writer’s mission is fulfilled when someone reads their work and finds it entertaining or useful.
Let’s help readers aboard your boat. Be aware of the wind. Pulling too hard on the oar or paddle can cause your boat or canoe to move in many directions. But good writing, properly formatted, can help your readers slice through the roughest water, take a direct route to their destination, enjoy the trip and yearn to join you for many more voyages.
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