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How to make your content easier to read (and harder for your audience to ignore)

Once you catch your audience’s attention, how can you stop them from scrolling past or tapping “back”?


You can’t guarantee a captive audience. But you can make it really easy for browsers to read and understand your message.


And that means more engagement from potential clients and better returns on your content.

You can follow these steps with anything you write online to improve readability.


1. Use line breaks to create shorter paragraphs


Most folks will be reading your content on their phones. If you’re writing in a Word doc, three lines of text could look like six on a browser.


Lots of line breaks and short paragraphs makes words easier to read on a screen and it’s skim-read friendly.


Check out this blog post by SEO whiz, Neil Patel. Each small paragraph is only one or two sentences long, which is perfect if you’re reading on mobile.


If you’re not sure, a good rule of thumb is to stick in a line break every two sentences. Even if you think the sentence doesn’t need it, your readers do.


Gen’s tip: When I’m writing on a Word doc, I set the margins extra wide so the page looks like a mobile browser view. It flags up any bloated paragraphs that need breaking up.


2. Every few line breaks, add a subheading


Lots of line breaks are great for readability but if you don’t include more sub-headings, your reader will get lost and lose interest.


A sub-heading is like a signpost for the reader. It tells them what they’re about to read, keeps them engaged, and flags up any key info for skim-readers.


When writing a sub-heading, look ahead to the next three to five sentences. What are you talking about that the reader must know? Pick the key topic or point and make it the subheading.


Gen’s tip: If you’re stuck, take the most important sentence and boil it down to its most basic elements. For example:


“If you’re not sure, a good rule of thumb is to stick in a line break every two sentences. Even if you think the sentence doesn’t need it, your readers do.”


If this was your key sentence, the subheading could be: ‘Add a line break every two sentences’.


3. Simplify your language


Depending on what you’re writing and who it’s for, the words on the screen should be as simple and easy to read as possible.


That means:

  • Using shorter words instead of longer, verbose ones

  • Short, easy to read sentences (without splitting off mid-sentence to follow another train of thought – that can be quite hard to follow for the reader!)

  • Removing words that aren’t actually needed

Notice some slip-ups above, flagged in red?


Despite being a professional writer, I still trip up on these kinds of issues. Sometimes it’s fun to write long, meandering sentences stuffed with adjectives!


That’s why I’ve started using the Hemingway app. Copy and paste your words into the app and it flags up issues and suggests tweaks you can make to tighten up your copy.


This doesn’t mean you need to drain all the life out of your copy! But since the average UK reading age is 12, you don’t want to risk losing your audience with convoluted copy*.


* or “copy that’s hard to read”!


4. Conclude with an action for the reader


If you’ve managed to keep your reader’s attention to the very last paragraph, don’t waste this opportunity! Give them an action to undertake.


On a website, that might be a link to explore a different page of the site. You might also encourage readers to get in touch or to book a free consultation.


If it’s a blog post, be wary of asking too much of your reader. Don’t assume they’re ready to buy from you just because they’ve read your latest “top tips” post. Instead, try:

  • linking to another relevant blog post or page on your website

  • encouraging them to get in touch to learn more

  • offering them access to a free service or online tool

  • asking a question e.g. “What tips have you tried that worked for you?”.

Some folks will get all they need from reading your content and won’t need further instruction. For the rest, continue the momentum you’ve built up and suggest a next step – one that benefits them.


Speaking of which … If you’d like to chat about your content, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.


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