I’m betting that much of what you write ends up in email messages, or on the web. If that’s the case, Jakob Nielsen has some advice for you, based on his studies of how people read email and web pages.
First, you need to understand that, when reading online (on the web or in email), readers don’t read as much as they scan.
“In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. (Update: a newer study found that users read email newsletters even more abruptly than they read websites.)”
With that in mind, your goal should be to make your text easy to scan.
- Highlight keywords*
- Use meaningful headings and subheadings
- Use bulleted lists
- Limit paragraphs to one idea
- Use the inverted pyramid, putting the most important information at the beginning
- Use fewer words
- Use simple, clear language; readers hate marketese and gobbledygook
According to Nielsen’s research, these changes can more than double the effectiveness of your web pages and email messages. There’s some bang for your buck!
*I admit that I seldom highlight keywords in my blog posts. Based on Nielsen’s advice, and the results he cites, I’m considering doing it more.