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Keep It Short and Simple Online

Online readers have short attention spans. In fact, they usually spend so little time reading that they’re scanners rather than readers.

Scanners read only a fraction of your written content, and they move on to a new website if your article doesn’t satisfy them immediately.

Knowing this, what can you do to interest scanners and turn them into readers? KISS!

KISS usually stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid, but we’re going to change it to Keep It Short and Simple. You need short and simple words, sentences, and paragraphs to keep your readers engaged.

Use Everyday Words

Let’s start with words. You might be tempted to show off your impressive vocabulary, but blogging isn’t the place to do it. Remember, you’re trying to turn scanners into readers.

If your would-be-readers have to reach for a dictionary to read your blog, they’re going to read something else.

This doesn’t mean that you have to limit your writing to the 1,000 most common words, but if there’s a simple word that can accurately replace your obscure one, use it!

Example: While I perambulate to my location of employment, it commences to precipitate.

  • Improved: While I walk to work, it begins to rain.

Shorten Sentences

While the above example of a bad sentence is awful in terms of word choice, at least it isn’t very long. Long sentences don’t work well online because they’re difficult to scan. Don’t start writing blog posts full of Dick and Jane sentences.

Just break up any sentences that have lots of clauses or are stretching over several lines.

If it makes it easier, you can even, *gasp*, start a sentence with “and” or “but”.

Example: Although I, a professional blogger with a journalism degree, seven years teaching experience, and have been writing online for almost ten years — can it really have been so long? — I simply cannot control my sentence length, which is often upwards of fifty words, four clauses, and includes at least one semi-colon, but I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing shorter sentences in the hopes of attracting more readers to my blog; can you help me, please?

  • Improved: I’m a professional blogger with a journalism degree and seven years teaching experience. I’ve also been writing online for almost ten years — can it really have been so long? Still, I simply can’t control my sentence length, which is often upwards of fifty words, four clauses, and includes at least one semi-colon. But I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing shorter sentences in the hopes of attracting more readers to my blog. Can you please help me?

These two examples have the same number of words (79), but the second one breaks down the one monster sentence into five readable sentences.

We could also do more editing for a succinct paragraph.

  • Improved: I’m a professional blogger with a journalism degree, seven years teaching experience, and ten years of writing online. I can’t control my sentence length, but I’ve decided to start writing shorter sentences to attract more blog readers. Can you please help?

By removing some unnecessary words, we’re now at a readable 41 words in three sentences.

Break Up Paragraphs

Did you notice how the example of the long sentence was as long as my regular paragraphs? As with words and sentences, we need to keep paragraphs short.

In blogging, a one sentence paragraph is more acceptable than a ten sentence one. There’s no precise rule about paragraph length, but if you think think that one of your paragraphs is too long, find a place to break it up.

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