TODAY’S READER IS A SCANNER

Busy, busy, busy. We’re going this way and that way, and it seems that we have less time for everything. That effort to cram more into every day has had a pronounced effect on the way people read. A generation ago, people tended to read at a more leisurely pace. They’d start at the beginning, finish at the end, and savor everything in between.

The shortage of time and the speed of finding information on the internet has fundamentally changed the way people read nearly everything. Instead of savoring, readers are skimming; breezing through articles, books, and documents at a pace that would have been considered speed-reading in the past. They look for what matters in a document, and zero in only on those points that seem to be most important.

If you want to make sure your message connects with those skimmers, design it with them in mind. Keep paragraphs brief and focused on a single subject. Use headlines, subheadings, and descriptive bold lead-ins to help them navigate to what they want to see. Don’t be afraid to underscore, italicize, or boldface key concepts and messages within your text. Just be careful not to overdo so that it becomes the printed equivalent of shouting.

Finally, make sure your conclusion is evident and clear. If you want the reader to take a particular action, spell it out, and do anything you can to make taking that action easier.

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