Write to be read

Do I have your attention?


Why am I writing like this? I want you to stay here. I don’t want your mind to wander to Facebook or ESPN or whatever.

So I will:

  • write short sentences
  • use lots of bulleted lists
  • hyperlink thoughtfully and helpfully (turning the hyperlink into a big target)
  • bold words that a reader might scan for, like names of people or companies
  • use clear (not necessarily clever) subheads to break up longer articles
  • stick to the rule of one thought per paragraph.

Notice the perfect parallel structure (above)? Thanks.

Oh, one more thing: Read this before class tomorrow. Get to know the ideas of Jakob Nielsen (who looks, I have to say, like a cross between a Bond villain and Benjamin Franklin).

And let’s be honest with ourselves about how we read on line so we can do a better job for our readers.

How well does this story about a proposed tax increase reflect what the Slate article says about the way we read on line? What could the writer have done differently to make this piece more readable? And, as a reader, what do you think of it?

You’re not alone if you get an uneasy feeling that you have to sacrifice your journalistic ideals to write news stories this way; lots of people feel that way at first. The truth is, you may have to adjust your notions about what a “good story” is. A good story is, among other things, one that makes it easy for the reader to find and retain the information. That may be all the on-line reader has time for, and we write to be read. Right?

Think about how you read on line. Watch yourself: Do you jump from item to item? What kinds of stories are you most likely to read all the way to the end?

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3 Responses to Write to be read

  1. Stephanie Halovanic says:

    I thought this thoroughly described the relatable truth about the way we read articles on line. I definitely agree with idea that we should watch ourselves as on line readers to better our own on line writing.

  2. ashleyamb3rh says:

    I really need to start putting things in bold and organizing my writing like that because I assume that people are so infatuated with my articles and blog posts they will actually read them all the way through. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to enjoy reading the way I do. Plus, all the techy/mathy/sciency people skim everything quickly so they can go back to their equations and whatnot. I am very glad to be a reader.

  3. ttm5zf says:

    It is like magic how certain literary devices and pared down construction can drive a reader’s focus. My pupils were helpless against the barrage of bold, for one thing!

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