Readers despise wasting time. Content must be valuable and offer something real. This ‘real’ thing can be a take-away widget, resource links, or information. In addition to offering something valuable, content should be concise. Here’s why.
Succinct = Digestible
Succinct content is digestible, meaning that readers will quickly comprehend it and go away with knowledge. Fluffy content is fun to write, but it costs readers time, which might not be appreciated by the audience. However, concise content is appreciated by everyone for the ‘real’ thing it offers.
Impatient Readers Skim
Short paragraphs are read often, whereas long paragraphs are skimmed. If you keep your content pithy, readers are more likely to read it. However, to appease the serious A.D.D. sufferers among us you should endeavor to make content skimable as well as concise.
Achieve Skimable Content
Here’s how to appease skimmers and leisure readers:
- Create an article framework. Each section should include one major point of information. Clearly cover the point, and then move on. Examples are appreciated, but they should be set aside so that readers can skip them.
- Clearly label each section’s point. If the subheader doesn’t explain the section’s purpose, then there’s an issue with the frame.
- Images must clarify the point, or they’re extraneous. Clever and attractive images are appreciated by leisure readers, but they might confuse skimmers. Determine your audience to decide if an attempt at humor is worth confusing the impatient people.
- Write a clear conclusion. Assume that the reader has read nothing more than the intro, subheaders, and conclusion—if he would still understand the gist of the piece, then the conclusion is successful.
- Time It. You should be able to digest all of the major points in the subheaders, as well as the conclusion, in fewer than 20 seconds. If you can do this, then most readers will get your point and therefore be willing to ‘like’ or upvote your piece. If they can’t digest the information quickly enough they can’t recommend it.
Here is an example of content that is not easily digestible:
Here’s the same text re-arranged as concise, digestible content:
This second version is easier to skim for the following reasons:
- Short Paragraphs
- Bold Highlights
- Predictable Flow – For example, the second sentence of each section is about which celeb is more famous.
- Explanatory Images – If this were an actual article, instead of the word “IMAGE” there would be crisp, clear, and attractive photographs.
Succinct content is easily skimmed, which readers appreciate. Make sure you have a real point to make for each subheader, so that skimmers can engage with the article in a shallow manner, and serious readers can peruse the text more seriously. Because readers loath the Victorian paid-by-the-word style of writing, it should always be avoided in meaningful content.