For many writers, especially those of an older generation, making the switch to online writing and targeting a digital audience can amount to a substantial challenge. It means amassing some knowledge in the areas of SEO, internet marketing, and WordPress themes.
It entails learning how to deal with virtual clients and integrate a written piece with a social media platform. In short, the freelance writer who begins working online needs to familiarize himself with a variety of tech topics.
But it’s not just one’s contacts and context that changes with the move online. Many writers make the mistake of assuming that an online readership will actually read a piece of writing in the same way that an offline audience would. Studies show, however, that people are far more likely to skim a given article when they come across it online, probably because the internet offers such a tremendous amount of content that users are less willing to dwell on something they don’t truly care to read.
The vast majority of online readers are looking for quick information that's entertaining or educational--comedic anecdotes, photos, news on best interest rates. All this goes to say that the writer who targets an online audience certainly wants to insure that his content is as well written and interesting as ever – but, at the same time, that content needs to appeal to readers who simply skim it over.
How can you boost the “skim-ability” of your online content? Here are a few suggestions:
-Use AP writing style.
Following a newspaper writing approach can help insure that your main information and argument falls at the top of your piece and that more specific details come further down. This approach will better capture the attention of readers who read the first few lines of an article and then skim the rest.
-Shorten paragraphs. Long paragraphs, a hallmark of scholarly and academic work, usually have little place in the online writing world. When people skim an article they are far more likely to read the first or last sentence of a paragraph than a sentence that falls in the middle. So if you're a financial blogger reviewing the latest best credit card offer for your readers, the info should probably not land smack dab in the middle of your post.
-Put thought into your title. When you have a skim-prone audience, you can never be certain whether they’ll read a given sentence in your article. But you can always be sure that they will read the title. On that note, trying to make your title informative, engaging, and provocative can help make your article far more appealing.
-Ask questions. There are certain symbols and techniques that can catch a reader’s eye as they skim through a piece. Bolded and italicized words can do the trick, for example, as can sentences written with all capital letters. But writers who seek a less gimmicky way to grab a reader’s attention can simply make an effort to ask more questions in the body of their writing. Skimmers are more likely to notice question marks and read a sentence, which by its very nature can play an important role in furthering the argument or forcing the audience to think.
These are just a few of the ways you can make your content more skim-able. While the skim-ability of your work is not as important as its quality and its argument, targeting the more unfocused of readers can help bring you greater success in the online writing world.