Readability

Do you have the feeling that no matter how well you write, no one is reading your blogs or web pages?

 

 

I hear this complaint a lot.  And when I look to see what the problem could be, I usually find two issues:

 

1. The writing looks like it will take a long time, and maybe require actual thinking to comprehend,

 

and

 

2. By trying to be "professional" and non-judgmental like a therapist wants to be, you've taken all the personality and specificity out of the content.

 

 

Think Display First
 

The most important factor in internet readability is whether your content looks easy to deal with on the screen.  Long blocks of overly wide content with not enough space between paragraphs conveys the impression that reading will be effortful.  

 

 

The human eye can take in about 75-90 characters of line length all at once, without the eye needing to move.  This makes that line length optimal for reading online.

 

 

The first line of the previous paragraph is 88 characters long.

 

 

Short sentences are best for comprehension.  Short paragraphs are essential for encouraging reading.  One sentence paragraphs are fine.  So are one or two word sentences.  

 

 

Just sayin'.

 

 

 

Paragraphs that are no more than 3 or 4 lines deep -- with 1 or 2 line spaces between paragraphs -- keep readers on the page.  It tricks the eye into thinking that there isn't too much to read.

 

 

Use bullet points, and relevant photos to reinforce your most important information.  Bullet points only work if they are incomplete sentences -- verbs are often unnecessary.  Punctuation is cumbersome in lists.

 

 

So to summarize:

 

  • make it look easy

  • short width

  • short sentences

  • short paragraphs -- 4 lines max

  • use bold and italic sparingly

  • incomplete sentence for bullet points

  • photos

 

 

By the way, ignore the people who tell you that two spaces between sentences are no longer required.  While that may be true, it still helps readability by giving an uncrowded feel to the paragraphs.

 

 

Inject Subheads to Start a New Thought

 

 

Subheads are mini-headlines, or secondary titles.  They are also a chance for a little extra SEO juice if you set them up with title tags -- such as h2 or h3. If you don't know what title tags are, ask me. Title tags are also needed now for ADA compliance.

 

 

Subheads serve to add an element of importance your content. The mind thinks there is something not to be missed in the following paragraphs.

 

 

They also are another way to break up the column of content because they are typically in larger and bolder type.

 

 

Let Your Personality Shine

 

 

These display devices will do no good if your content is boring and irrelevant to the reader.  Write the way you speak ..... the way people will experience you in person.  This gives a level of like-ability to your writing that the dry academic voice doesn't have.

 

 

Write in first and second person tense -- that means, use I and you, not the the vague third person "they".  Write as if you are speaking to the one person sitting on the other side of the computer screen just like you would do if they were in your office.

 

 

Be personal  

 

 

Writing with your personality -- drawing from your own experience as examples --  puts life into the content.  But do be careful with humor, especially if yours is on the sarcastic side, as it can be easily misunderstood.

 

 

If you are a therapist who practices from a blank slate approach, you can still be personal in your writing.  Do it by talking about "a friend".  Frame your hypothetical examples as "knowing a woman who"..... or once "working with a guy who".....

 

 

For example, years ago a naturopathic colleague asked for a marketing consult. She wanted to write an ebook about the mind-body connection, but felt stuck because there was already so much material on the internet about it. She thought she didn't have anything of value to say.

 

In our discussion it turned out that she was able to explain the physiology of the fight /flight /freeze syndrome in a simple and entertaining way that I had never thought of before.

 

She used metaphors that made neuro-chemistry of how stress effects the body instantly understandable.  This was how she explained it to all her clients, she told me.  This was what would make her writing interesting and successful, I told her.

 

 

Is that a true story?  It doesn't matter.  It illustrates a point in a personal way.

 

 

In writing, this is called creative license.  Hypothetical but personalized examples of points you are trying to make don't need to be literally true, as long as the point itself is true.

 

 

Be Specific

 

 

Don't write in vague generalities.  Most people don't feel an emotional connection with generalities.  Make your writing about their pain, and you get their attention.

 

 

You're feeling overwhelmed right now?  It's too much to juggle when all you can think about it getting more butts in chairs?

 

 

Asking about a specific feeling, or naming a specific situation gives the reader a reason to invest their time and available brain cells to reading your message.

 

 

More importantly, it makes an emotional connection that starts the process of trust and rapport -- and desire to become your client!

 

 

Be Bold

 

 

My clients and colleagues often say that what stops them from writing is that they can't think of anything new to say.  This assumes that your readers have already read everything that exists on a topic you are knowledgeable about. 

 

 

That assumption is highly unlikely. It's actually a subconscious way your insecurities are sabotaging you.  It's those insecurities and not reality telling you that you are not good enough as a writer or therapist to be worthy of expressing your own opinions.

 

 

It doesn't matter that everyone under the sun has written about stress. YOU will have your own opinions about it, and your own way of expressing what you know. 

 

 

Think of it this way -- your writing may be the only thing the reader sees on the topic all year.  Or the first time it makes sense to them. 

 

 

Readability Checklist

 

  • Is your content displayed well?

  • Does the eye move easily down the page?

  • Does the page look clearly organized?

  • Will the reader get a sense of your personality?

  • Are you making an emotional connection?

Now, get writing!

© 2015--2019 by Deah Curry  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Design by  De*WriteSites

​I ​​do two basic things when I work with people:

I bring 40 years of experience and training​ to bear on the projects or situations at hand, and

I strive to problem solve with the best of my expertise in order to satisfy the client's needs.

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