This video is from my #Obsidiscope Periscope series that I shared in October 2015, where I shared handy copywriting tips for beginner copy and content writers to improve their writing today! This episode looks at pacing yourself when you’re writing.
How can I make my writing more “readable”?
Today we’re looking at pacing in your writing, and how laying out your copy in smaller, digestible chunks can do wonders for readability. Let’s start with a little reality check:
Aspects of readability start as soon as the reader lays eyes on the page.
– Me, today, just now.
We’ve all been there. A block of text with no paragraphs or line breaks seems imposing and impenetrable – people will be immediately put off before they’ve even read a word. Text needs to look light and digestible, and formatting your text well can help here.
Embrace the Negative Space!
The easiest way to make your text appear effortless to read is to keep sentences small and use moderately frequent line breaks. This gives the appearance of being less of a chore to read and understand, and you think “hey, I’ll get this read in no time”. I’ve heard one professional blogger (unfortunately I can’t remember her name) saying that she ends a paragraph after two sentences come hell or high-water! Personally I feel this is a little overkill, but it’s cool to know the interesting habits that people bake in to their writing processes to ensure readability.
Dot, Dot, Dot
However, it’s not just line breaks that make text more digestible. Lists of longer then 3 items can (and usually should) be split into a bulleted or numbered list; and if you’re quoting someone, use different formatting like HTML block quote to highlight their wise words. But personally (as you can probably tell) I have a habit of splitting my text down into separate parts and punctuating them with subheadings. These tips aid digestibility, and make your text seem far less imposing than a dense monolith of text!
Slowing Down Your Readers
On the subject of subheadings, Marie Forleo made a great point in one of her awesome YouTube videos. She called subheadings in copy “speedbumps”, and explained how this approach suits two very distinct types of reader. Those who read closely and carefully will stop and absorb each title as it punctuates the end of one part and the start of another; but those who tend to skim-read might quickly flick through each subheading to see which parts resonate with them and are worth a closer read.
Free Apps Can Help
There are a couple of online apps that can help you keep sentences short and succinct. The first one is called Hemingway, named after Ernest Hemingway, who is known for his short and to the point writing style. It suggests places where a sentence can be made shorter and simpler, helping you write in a much more straightforward way. It’s great if you have a habit of writing run-on sentences, or generally over-elaborating.
The second is Grammarly. This excellent tool comes at the problem a slightly different way; it looks for grammatical errors, which in some cases may be solved by splitting up a longer sentence. Even if you feel you are a proficient writer, I’d suggest a look at Grammarly if you haven’t already. And if you’re good at writing persuasively and succinctly but feel that your grammar sometimes lets you down, it’s well worth checking out.