“Content snacking.”  Doesn’t that just say it all?

OBVIOUS: People don’t really read your content. They take a nibble here and there, then draw their own conclusions.

If you want to communicate effectively online (and in print), here are some rules to live by:

01. White Space

Jargon alert!

White space is an area in your design that is intentionally left blank.  It’s the breathing room around your content.

White space makes your piece feel less overwhelming.  And less overwhelming equals easier to read.

How do you create white space in your copy?

  • Large headings (with generous spacing)
  • Ordered lists
  • Bullet lists
  • Pull out quotes / block quotes
  • Wide margins
  • Short paragraphs
  • Generous leading, i.e., line height
  • Generous kerning, i.e., the space between the characters

Next time you feel the urge to fill every pixel of your screen with content, resist!  Music is the notes, but it’s also the spaces between the notes.  The same goes for good writing.

02. Headings

Another great reason to use headings is as a scanning aid. (“Content snacking,” remember?)

If you give people descriptive headings, they can consume your piece faster. They can get a top level view of the structure and major points of your piece at the start, then drill into the sections that are of interest to them.

Trust me, nobody wins if you get someone to read a paragraph that doesn’t matter to them.

03. Short Paragraphs

People skip long paragraphs. Sad, but true. Aim for 1-2 sentences per paragraph to improve readability.

Offended by this idea?  I was too, til I tried it. Look, I love Dostoyevsky as much as the next literary nerd, but he would have had trouble getting subscribers to his blog.

Not only do shorter paragraphs make your work easier to read, they make it punchier too.  Now I get nervous every time a paragraph wraps onto a second line in my editor.

Why does it matter?

You want people to read what you write, don’t you?  Don’t you?

Right. So that’s all there is to it.

What have I missed?  What are your go-to tricks for improving readability? Tell me in the comments.