Writing Online Content Visually: Sentences, Paragraphs and Chunking Information

Aim to accommodate online readers when writing online content by focusing on the visual aspects. Large chunks of text discourage online readers from trudging through your content. There are three easy ways to make your text reader-friendly, scannable and accommodating to online readers:

  1. Using short sentences
  2. Keeping paragraphs short
  3. Chunking information

Influence how well your message is received and how often people actually read your content. Keep it brief. Use fewer words in sentences. Use fewer sentences in paragraphs. Chunk information. Try weaving in numbered or bulleted lists. Writing for the web isn’t just about words. Consider the presentation of the information.

Draw readers in with scannable content. Consider using examples or illustrations. You can create powerful, effective online content by making your content visually appealing. Create content that addresses the needs and habits of the people that read it. When you don’t –what value does it have?

Using short sentences in online content

Use short sentences. Text is read differently in online content. Scanning is the norm – reading word-for-word is not. Short sentences encourage readers to read your content because it creates scannable material.

Aim to keep sentences between 15-20 words. Doing so promotes scanning and easy reading. Sentences that are 30 words or more are difficult to read. Long sentences also make it harder for your readers to understand or retain your message.

Keeping paragraphs short in online content

Long paragraphs of more than four or five lines discourage readers to read all your online content. Two- or three-sentence paragraphs are usually enough. Break up long paragraphs into multiple paragraphs. Don’t be afraid of creating a too-short paragraph. Not only does this create shorter paragraphs, but it also adds white space that is easy on the eyes of your readers.

Shorter paragraphs draw in more readers by keeping them engaged as they scan. Keep paragraphs short using these methods:

  • Break up long blocks of text into smaller ones
  • Create bulleted or numbered lists for related content
  • Use bold text to highlight important text
  • Add block quotations separate from other text
  • Highlight a quotation by using it on a single line
  • Front load your paragraphs with important information first

Chunking information in online content

Chunking information creates scannable online content. Keeping your sentences and paragraphs short is part of chunking. Your online readers have little patience for long, wordy and anything-but-concise text. Give them material that is easy and enjoyable to read by chunking information in one of two ways:

  1. Chunk it out –Break up paragraphs, work in bulleted or numbered lists, use subheadings and white space to your advantage.
  2. Chunk it down—Shorten text by writing clear and concise content. Decide what’s essential and what’s superfluous. Eliminate deadwood, redundancy and wordiness. In other words, get to the point in as few words as possible.

Using illustrations and examples

Incorporate other visual material to break up text. Use tables or charts to that makes harder-to-understand information easier to digest. Find or create relevant or representative photos, illustrations or diagrams for visual appeal. While incorporating these visual elements isn’t always possible, using them makes your content more reader friendly online.

If you’re a paid writer through Write.com, for example, your focus is usually solely on text. Examples work well when you cannot include visuals. Online readers are more likely to read an example first. Some go back and read the rest of the content. Some don’t. What matters is that you create content that holds visual appeal to as many readers as possible.