If your writing is meant to be published online, then you’re writing for online readers. And this writing can be in different forms like a blog post, an article, a web page, a product description, a buying guide, or a case study.
But there’s no guarantee that anyone will actually read your writing.
Research from Chartbeat showed that:
And according to another study:
It looks like online readers are not the patient type. Instead, they seem like they’re always in a hurry, maybe because they are either searching for information or looking for a particular product or just easily distracted. This type of behavior is called “scanning,” and it’s a very well-known reading style. It’s how speed-readers get through so many pages at once.
So, how do you get them to read your writing long enough to get your message across?
Think about it for a minute and you’ll see that it’s obvious. You already know what they want, so why not give it to them? Since the majority of online readers prefer to scan, just make your writing very easy for them to understand quickly.
And to help you with that, here are nine simple tricks you can use to make your writing very easy for online readers to digest with very little effort:
Because you already know that your readers are impatient and can quickly become distracted, you need to go out of your way to attract and hold their attention. Do this by using as few words as possible to get your point across. Avoid beating about the bush and go straight to the point.
Where one word is good enough, don’t use two.
Even if you’re writing long-form content and you know you can make all your points with 1,500 words, don’t be tempted to stretch it to 2,000. Also, avoid repeating the same information over and over because it can irritate your readers and get them to click away faster. Remember to cut out all unnecessary words.
As long as you’re writing for online readers, it’s better to keep your sentences short. Short sentences are easier to scan than long sentences because they help to create more white space in your writing. When you have more white space in your writing, readers find it much easier to scan.
If you’re having difficulty reducing a sentence that appears too long, try to break it into two complete sentences. While some people think short sentences should have no more than 15 to 20 words, others believe they should not exceed 16 words maximum. But these days, one-, two-, and three-word sentences are also common.
You can also use a mixture of short sentences having different word counts in your writing. This goes further to create more white space and make it easier for your writing to be scanned by your readers.
To make your writing easier for online readers to scan and understand quickly, use simple words and grammar that the majority of your readers are familiar with. This helps them to quickly get your point and continue reading. Don’t try to impress by using big words and grammar that may be unfamiliar to them.
If your writing is filled with unfamiliar words, readers may find your writing difficult to understand. And instead of trying to think and figure out—or use a dictionary to look up!—what you’re saying, they might lose interest and leave. Always remember that online readers are very impatient, can become easily distracted, and are always in a hurry.
Just like short sentences, short paragraphs are your best bet. They help you avoid writing in large blocks and create more white space in your writing. While some people prefer one-sentence paragraphs, it’s generally advised that your paragraphs not exceed five sentences, though three-sentence paragraphs are more common.
You can also use a combination of all the above types of acceptable paragraph and sentence length in your writing. All these make your writing more appealing to the eyes and at the same time, easier and faster to scan for your online readers.
Subheadings are another tool that can help you engage online readers better. Subheadings can quickly highlight relevant key points in any post to each reader.
With subheadings in your writing, you can also create a direction for online readers to follow, to quickly get your message across before they leave your page. Subheadings also—you guessed it—help to create more white space and make your writing easier and faster to scan.
When you add images to your writing, you stand a much better chance of attracting the attention of online readers. According to research by Skyword, viewership of a published article with a relevant image improved by 94 percent when compared to a similar article that had no image.
So what types of images are we talking about? A lot of options are available for you to choose from, and they include:
Remember to use relevant images that add value to your writing by helping either to illustrate a point or to provide more information or data. Images help your article to be much easier to
Bullet points can help you present your writing in a way that assists online readers to scan and understand it faster and better. When you have a lot of points to present, use bullet points over presenting your points with long sentences, to better separate and highlight each point.
Bullet points also stand out better to online readers. When bullet points are used properly, your writing will be clearer and easier to understand. In addition, it will contain more white space.
To help you engage your online readers better, you should avoid making specific claims without any evidence or facts to back it up.
You can also go further by linking to them. This goes a long way toward confirming that you did your homework and carried out thorough research before writing. When you have links in your writing, the authority of your content increases.
In addition, your readers can also learn more by following the links, if they’re interested. But don’t forget that following a link can also make a reader leave your page faster, in some cases.
To further improve the overall look of your writing and attract online readers, there are still more tools at your disposal, such as choosing the right font and the right font size. Others include using italics, caps, bold text, highlights, and so on where necessary.
When these tools are used the right way, you can quickly drag your readers’ attention to special words, specific phrases, quotes, or even sentences. This makes your writing more appealing to their eyes and also easier to scan at a very fast rate.
Even though online readers can be hard-to-please customers, it’s still possible to engage them when you give them what they want. And all they want is to be able to scan your content quickly, and understand everything you’re saying, without thinking too hard.
To help you achieve this, consider using these nine simple tricks every time you write for online readers:
When you use all these tricks in your writing, not only do you stand a much better chance of quickly grabbing the attention of your online readers; you may even keep them glued to your writing long enough to convert them to loyal fans.
Sola Kehinde is a freelance content writer for hire with 10+ years of corporate business management experience. She helps businesses of all sizes create engaging blog posts, case studies, guides, tutorials and eBooks that attract and convert. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her drinking green tea, watching movies or curled up with a good book. Visit her writing portfolio here.