Writing articles – Readability

Most people (80%) scan an online text instead of reading the entire thing.

Online readers commonly scan the text from top left to bottom right, are in a hurry, and will move on quickly if bored.

Reading online is 25-40% slower than on paper, and over half of all readers stop reading once the text gets over 20 lines long or so.


Avoid big blocks of text

If your paragraphs are too long, find or make a natural place to split them into two.

Would you rather read this…

block-of-text

…than this?

block-of-text-structured

Some good ways to divide the text into more readable chunks:

  • Use intermediate titles (h3-tags in Epi, or bold if an additional nesting level is needed)
  • Keep paragraphs under 100 words.
  • Insert lists with bullet points (but keep the lists short – 10 entries or less)
  • Insert fact boxes or tables (Not too long or dominant, though)
  • Insert quotes (Use the “Knockout text” style in Epi)
  • Insert images or other graphic elements (Maps, illustrations, diagrams, etc)
  • A link to related content (“Read more about Bergen” between paragraphs, for instance)

In short: Avoid «tl;dr»! («too long; didn’t read»)

A sleeping reader leaves no clicks:

tldr[1]


Bolding

Another good way to increase readability is through bolding, ie emphasizing a few important words by putting them in bold. Here are some guidelines for using this:

  • Makes it easier for the reader to pick up the important points when scanning the article.
  • Decide what the main point in each paragraph is, and put it in bold.
  • No longer than two to five words.
  • Should contain an action.
  • Too much bolding will defeat the purpose and actually decrease readability.
  • Use bold only – do not use ALL CAPS or underlined text; this will look like shouting, or be easily confused with links.
  • Do not bold link texts. It is usually best to insert links in the article first, and then do the bolding.
  • Bold important information only – if it is insignificant, subjective or anything but important facts, do not bold it.