Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Write for Skimming

Back in January 2008, I suggested that people Stop Reading and instead Skim Dive Skim. It received some passionate replies - although not quite what I expected. Most people proved me wrong and they actually read things - see the survey results about whether people found a small bit of text embedded in the middle of my post:
  • 74% of the people saw it
  • 21% missed it
  • 5% not sure
I'm still convinced there's lack of ability to get people's attention and have them focus on any details - see Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis or better yet read the comments in Stop Reading where they passionately discuss people not reading emails. So while you may be a reader, likely a lot of the people you are writing for are skimmers.

Writing for Skimming

To me this means that we all have to work on our ability to write for skimming. I can't say that I'm all that great at this, but here are some things I try to do.
  • Break Up Text - Write relatively shorter paragraphs with the main idea called out in text.

  • Use Headlines - Breaking up content into major sections and label those sections with headers.
  • Use Bullets - Bulleted lists makes it much easier for a skimmer to get useful information.
  • Bolding- Within copy on the page, it's good to bold words or phrases that you want to jump out. Skimmers' will pick up that text first and then may read the rest of the words around it. Don't make everything bold or it will make nothing jump out.
  • Hyperlink Text - The text that goes along with the hyperlink will also jump out to the skimmer. Change the text to fit what you are trying to say.
There's a ton more on this, but these are the basics for me. What do you do to try to write for skimming?

No comments:

Post a Comment