Confession time. I'm a grammar nerd.
My favorite subject in school was English. Not just literature, but grammar.
The day I learned to diagram a sentence was a total game changer, and I probably judge you for incorrectly using "your" when you really meant "you're."
But when I started learning to write for business, I had to put my grammar elitism behind.
Sure, I still aim for perfection in spelling and grammar (notice I aim, but I also make mistakes. oopsie), but I've learned a few tricks for writing in business that do not exist in writing for academia.
Case in point: emails and web pages.
How many of you have received an email, opened it, and immediately closed it because there was just. so. much. text?
I know I have.
Even if the subject matter is interesting, or the content is important, it still feels like a huge task to make it to the end of an email that's all just one big paragraph.
You don't know what it's about, or if you should bother to read the whole thing.
In fact, you don't want to read the whole thing to find out.
It might make some of you sad, but the truth is that we live in an age of headlines and captions, of quick excerpts and skimming.
People don't read.
In fact, it feels a little ironic to be writing a blog post about how people skim blog posts, knowing that you're skimming it.
So, without further ado, here are 3 tips to improve the readability of your writing that have absolutely nothing to do with what you're saying.
1. Break up your text into smaller paragraphs.
The old saying to eat the elephant one bite at a time? It applies here. Sitting down to read a chapter in a book feels easier than sitting down to read a whole book. It's the same way with paragraphs or blocks of text.
Having your writing split into chunks makes it easier for the reader to skim from one idea to the next. If it were all one paragraph, they might read the first sentence and the last, and miss all the meat inside your word sandwich.
When your writing is broken into chunks, it gives the reader tiny little benchmarks at which they can decide to keep writing or to give up.
One time I ran a half-marathon. When I started training, I was not a runner (spoiler alert: I'm not a runner now, either).
I would set small markers to run to, and when I got to that point, I'd either stop and walk or set a different small marker and keep running. I'd make it to that telephone pole, or the mailbox at the end of the street.
And often when I got there, I felt like I could keep going.
It's the same thing with your writing. Maybe your reader skims the first three chunks and then decides to keep going, knowing they can stop reading at any time.
The key is to keep them engaged so they WANT to read what you have to say. But if your huge body of text feels too overwhelming, they won't stick around for long.
Key takeaway: BREAK. IT. UP.
2. Write like you speak.
Write for your audience, not for your high school English teacher. Yes, I know that Mrs. Robbins would never want you to start a sentence with But or And. And I know that a sentence includes a subject and a verb. But this isn't high school, and no one wants to read your essay.
When you're writing to your customers, don't sell to them. Help them. Entertain them. Inspire them.
Speak to them individually, as if you were having a coffee or a glass of wine. Not only do these shorter, more casual sentences make your company feel more approachable and trustworthy, it also makes your copy easier to read. And when your copy is easy to read, more people are likely to read it.
Now, if you're selling medical equipment or life insurance, you probably don't want to throw in a "amiright" or a break up your sentences with periods for dramatic effect. You have to know your audience.
But for most creative entrepreneurs with handmade products, your voice and your vision are imperative to the perceived liveliness of your product. Put YOU in your writing, not Mrs. Robbins.
3. Use a variety of styles and symbols
While people are skimming, they subconsciously look for a path through the text. If your text is just one big Times New Roman hunk of words, there is no path. There's just the X at the top of the screen to leave as soon as possible.
You can create a visual path through your text by using bold or italic text and other ways to break up the monotony.
Use numerical characters instead of writing out the words (yes, even if it's below 10).
Throw in parenthesis and other symbols to break up the monotony of the letters.
Anything you can do to guide your reader to and through the most important parts of your text will keep them engaged longer, and help them to get more out of what you're telling them.
That's it! 3 Easy ways to improve your writing that you can start using immediately.
Tell me in the comments -- will you use them?