Since most readers are actually scanners, how can you make sure that your writing is reaching them? Here are some techniques for improving your scannability.
Use, bolding, italics, underlining, and changing your font size to emphasize your key points. Your readers’ eyes are naturally attracted to formatting changes, so they’re more likely to read those words. Make sure that you don’t overuse formatting changes. A text in which everything is bolded is equivalent to a text in which nothing is bolded.
Lists are a handy format for scannability since they break text into small, neat chunks. You can use numbered lists (which make great titles) or bulleted lists. Combining lists with bolded text helps highlight key points while also providing more information.
Example: 3 Reasons to Write Online
Subheaders are the signposts of your writing, telling your readers what’s next. In this lesson, the title, or header, is “Make it Scannable”, and each of the points about scannability is placed under a subheader. By reading the subheaders, you know what each paragraph is about. Copyblogger recommends writing your title and subheaders first. This technique gives you a clear outline of what your key ideas are and makes you focus on what your reader is most likely to read.
Just because you have lots of words on a page doesn’t mean that they’ll be read. In fact, your readers are more likely to feel overwhelmed by reams of text. Adding whitespace — areas with no text — makes your writing feel less dense and easier to read.
It’s easier to look at a picture than it is to read a blog post. Once you’ve got people looking at a picture in your post, they’ll likely read the caption too. Include a picture with a deep caption — a caption that’s two or three sentences long and is likely to grab readers’ attention. Also place pictures by your main ideas, so that readers who look at the pictures notice your text as well.
Adding a border or changing the background colour for your quotes sets them off from the rest of your text. As I mentioned in the formatting section above, readers notice formatting changes, so they’re more likely to read a blocked-off quote.
Include hyperlinks to other reputable websites to support your claims and to give readers another place to read more about the topic. Also include relevant links to other pages on your website so that your reader can learn more about you (or your client).