When was the last time you searched for something on Google and read (actually read) the first three articles you clicked on?
If you’re anything like me: never.
The fact is that people don’t read anything on the internet. Not the first time they look at it, anyways.
The information economy dictates that we skim an article before we read it. Unless you’re familiar with the author or source, you do this every time (whether you realize it or not).
So stop writing for readers and write for skimmers. Of course, your article should still read well too (otherwise the visitor will never come back).
Let’s get started!
How to Write for Skimmers
Here’s some tips for writing an article that skims well and reads well.
1. Use Plenty of Headings
…like the one I just used. Headings are great for skimmers.
Here’s a thought: can you tell your entire story with headings? Give it a try!
Also, use bold text sparingly to make it effective and complement headings.
2. Employ More Lists
They’re a great way to get all your points across quickly. Plus, lists stand out visually among paragraphs.
3. Watch Your Pronouns
Try less “I”s and more “you”s. To understand how this applies to real (business) life, read It’s Not About You (aff).
Focus on how your information applies to your reader.
4. Stick to Short Paragraphs
Write shorter paragraphs for a world where people have shorter attention spans. Personally, my eyes glaze over when I see huge chunks of text (and I’m a textbook skimmer).
Ideally you should have no more than 2 or 3 short to medium sentences per paragraph. (On a side note: this also makes the content easier to read.)
5. Cut the Fluff
Web browsers (the people, not the technology) have built in fluff detectors so keep your writing concise.
Besides, do you really want to spend all that extra time writing stuff that doesn’t even matter?
That’s the gist of it! Keep these tips in mind to create articles that are certified skimmable (and easy to read). Remember, though, that your content better have great value too.
P.S. End With a P.S.
Most skimmers quickly go down to the bottom of the page (like you did) so they notice “P.S.”s. Use a P.S. to include a call to action (like “sign up for my newsletter”) or to highlight your article’s main takeaway (like “effective web copy is concise and well organized“).
P.P.S. Sign up for free updates below!