Do your posts and articles look like college term papers? If they do, you’re making a big mistake (and your web traffic probably shows it).
Not writing scannable content just may be the number one rookie writer mistake new writers make.
Don’t worry. If you’re making this mistake, you’re not alone. I made it myself years ago when I transitioned from technical writing to web writing.
Learning how to make your articles and posts scannable is not difficult.
In this post, I share ten elements that will help make your online posts and articles more scannable.
10 Elements of Scannable Content
Is your writing scannable? Check these ten elements of scannable writing to find out:
- Good headline. Scannable content starts with a strong headline. The headline needs to be relevant to the audience and to the story. It doesn’t hurt if it includes a keyword.
- Subheads. Subheadings are an important part of scannable content. They are also a major difference between writing for the web and other types of writing (such as academic writing).
- Short paragraphs. You would never turn in a term paper with paragraphs that were only one or two sentences long. But short paragraphs are a best practice for web writers.
- Short sentences. If you’re writing for the web, the sentences in your paragraphs should also be short and to the point. Where you can, remove adverbs, adjectives, and other extra words.
- Numbered Lists. When you publish online your reader should be able to quickly pick out any lists in your piece. Use numbered lists when the order of the list items is important or when you are counting them.
- Bulleted Lists. Including a bulleted list is another way to make your text more scannable. Use this type of list when the order and number of list items is not important.
- Bold Font. A simple font change is an effective way of drawing the reader’s eye to an important term or phrase. Be careful, though. If you use too much bold, your piece will look cluttered and be hard to read.
- Italic Font. Like bold face, italics are also an effective way to make short phrases or terms stand out. Again, don’t overdo it. When it comes to font changes, less is more.
- Images. An interesting image is a good way to capture your reader’s attention. If the image is a graph or chart, it can also enhance the reader’s understanding of the topic.
- Captions. This is the formatting element that many writers miss (including yours truly). Online readers often look at image captions before they read an online article or post.
You’ll notice I didn’t include length of the piece on this list. Some experts believe that all online writing should be shorter than printed and academic pieces. I disagree.
It’s quite possible to engage your online reader with a well-written, properly formatted longer piece. In fact, some studies show that search engines prefer longer posts and articles.
To learn more about post length, take a look at Secrets You Need to Know About Writing Longer Blog Posts and Does Size Matter? A Look at Longer Blog Posts.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you write for an online audience? How do you make your writing scannable?
Share your thoughts in the comments.