How to Write a Readable Online Article
Know Your Readers
You want to write easy-to-read hubs that will entice your readers to come back for more? This article serves to remind you of information that you probably already know, but haven't thought to incorporate into your writing. This information is so obvious, you're going to say "but of course! I already knew that!"
Adults Don't Read
Adults don't read. They skim. Most of us adults aren't speed readers and there's way too much information out there for us to read things online in a linear fashion all the way through. Usually we read the first few sentences or paragraphs to determine if the article contains useful or entertaining information. Then, unless it is something we really need to know, like how to send a traffic ticket to the right place so we don't get our driver's license revoked or how to get our tax refund faster, we usually skim through the rest. We adults are distracted, too. We're reading on the phone while we're making dinner and getting body slammed by toddlers while we try to get our news.
Readers are Natural Editors
Many adult readers can't spell, but they recognize misspelled words in print. This vicious double standard means that if you are one of those adult readers who also happens to write, then you need to use your spell checker and grammar checker on your hub capsules. It's a sad fact: Articles that are misspelled damage your credibility as a writer. Case in point: I just ran the spell-check too and realized I had misspelled the word MISPELLED! That said, I will be the first to admit that it is difficult to be vigilant. We have to hold ourselves to a high standard if we want to be taken seriously as writers.
While this information is applicable to just about any adult online, you can dig into the deeper truths of just who is reading Your hubs by using the Google Analytics tool. This fact-filled application is available for free as part of the Google suite of tools. You can also link it to your Google Adsense reporting features.
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Format Your Writing for Easy Reading
If you are writing about an informational topic, particularly one that answers a specific question, make use of common techniques that help readers find the information they are seeking quickly. Readers want their information and they want it now.
Tips for formatting your informational topics
- Break up long paragraphs into shorter topical paragraphs. Short paragraphs are easier to read on computer screens, especially mini laptops with 10 or 12-inch screens.
- Use bulleted and numbered lists. Lists help your readers to skim through information quickly. I'm a fan of using lists with bolded text that highlights the key idea. List your main point first and then follow with the details. I'm doing it now!
- Use text boxes to call out specialized terminology. In my article How to Make Chain Mail from Coat Hangers, I use this technique.
- Use relevant pictures and videos to break up your text and illustrate your information. Pictures add visual interest and can illustrate certain ideas more quickly and easily than the written word can. Please see my article How Much is a Terabyte, Anyway? to see how pictures can enhance a technical topic.
- Talk directly to your reader. Use a conversational tone that is polite and direct, but not sloppy or overly personal. Many writers here on HubPages show a mastery of this writing style.
- Use headings, but repeat the idea in the first paragraph too. When I was employed as a professional technical writer for a major corporation, the writers in our department debated about the effectiveness of placing information in headings. Two theories about headings exist. Some professional technical writers think that readers don't actually read headings. These writers still use headings, however, because headings create easy-to-skim structure for an article. Other writers believe readers use headings to catch main ideas. Do make use of headings. Personally, I believe that readers do skim headings.
- Use easy-to-understand language. Keep in mind the purpose of your article. If your purpose is to share information, use easy-to-understand language that is appropriate for your audience. If your article written for a general audience, many technical writers who work for computer companies recommend writing at about a 5th grade reading level.
- Avoid writing in ALL CAPS. IT IS THE ONLINE EQUIVALENT OF YELLING.
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