Very few people read a text from A to Z. They scan. And if they don’t find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible, they’ll tune out. As a marketer, writer, or owner of a webshop, it’s in your best interest to write straightforward content that is compelling and easy to scan. In this article, you’ll discover a simple checklist to help you improve the readability of your web texts.
Basic rule: write for your typical visitor
Of course, it’s important for people to find your content via Google. But ultimately it’s your typical visitor who decides whether to buy your product or service. That’s why you should always write with your visitors in mind:
- Who are your visitors?
- How do your visitors want to be addressed?
- What kind of questions do your visitors have?
- How can you answer them as quickly as possible?
Tip: Focus completely on your visitors, but use a helpful tool to make sure your text complies with SEO requirements.
Lay out your article’s subject
A novel might have a pages-long and mysterious opening scene, but the average website visitor tends to tune out after an incoherent intro.
Make sure you always lay out clearly what the reader can expect. And be honest. Making promises in the intro that you don’t follow through on, is bound to backfire.
Pay attention to typography
‘Goofy’ fonts are distracting, so be sure not to use them unless they serve a clear purpose. The website fontpair.co offers beautiful font combinations that are easy to read on any device. Even better is to call upon a designer to help you out.
Font size, line spacing, and paragraph width are all important factors in readability. It’s often better to steal something good than invent something bad, so find inspiration on other websites with great typography, like medium.com or aiga.org.
Visitors scanning your website want to see what an article is about in the blink of an eye. That makes it important to use subtitles.
For longer text, it’s important to add some hierarchy:
- Announce chapters with a subtitle (H2).
- Chapter sections call for a smaller subtitle (H3).
Keep paragraphs short
Big chunks of text are hard to scan. The book A Writer’s Reference suggests an average paragraph length of 100 to 200 words. That should be much shorter for online text! Many of your visitors will be reading your content on their smartphones. In that case, a paragraph length of three to five sentences is ideal.
Use bullet points
The benefits of using bullet points:
- scannable for your readers;
- easier to differentiate;
- information is easier to retain.
But make sure only to use bullet point lists when they add value to the content!
Avoid passive voice
Describe ‘who’ is doing what.
The gutter will be cleaned.
Our specialist will clean your gutter.
Using words like ‘maybe’ or ‘a little’ tend to tone down your message to your readers. Aim to avoid soft language as much as possible.
Alternate shorter and longer sentences
No one loves to read endless meandering sentences loaded with commas. But too short can be equally hard to read. Be sure to alternate short and long sentences to avoid those issues. Consider reading your text out loud to yourself. That can be a great way to decide whether it has a good flow.
This article covered how to compose a clear-cut text for the web.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
- An intro that explains what the article is about.
- Easy-to-read letter type, font size, and line spacing.
- Use subtitles for each new topic.
- Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of 3-5 sentences.
- Use bullet points when they add value.
- Avoid passive voice (should/would/could).
- Avoid weak language (maybe/a little).
- Alternate short and long sentences.
And most importantly of all:
Always write with your typical visitor in mind.
(And leave the SEO part up to Textmetrics! Our editor offers automated hints to help optimize your pages for Google. The Text Conversion Optimizer module analyses your content and helps you increase the readability of your text and improves the chance of conversion.)