21st May 2021
5 Top Tips on How to Write for Skim Readers
In this busy world, who has time to read anything? Well, we do, because we’re proofreaders. But not everyone has the time or patience to read everything in detail. And that means it helps if you know how to write for skim readers. Top tips include:
- Set out exactly what you are writing about at the start of the document.
- Break copy up into distinct sections with clear headings.
- Use short paragraphs and lists to break up big blocks of text.
- Write clearly and concisely, avoiding unnecessary jargon.
- Present key information visually with charts, illustrations, and infographics.
These tips can be especially useful for blog posts, sales copy, and in any document where you need to communicate a few key points as efficiently as possible. For more information on writing for skim readers, have a skim of our full guide below.
1. Get Straight to the Point!
If someone is in a hurry, they want to know that reading something will be worthwhile. Thus, when writing for skim readers, you need to get to the point.
The most important factor here is the first paragraph. Here, you need to set out exactly what you’re writing about and what someone will gain from reading.
At the top of this post, for example, we set out why writing for skim readers is important, then introduce a list of the tips we discuss in what follows. This immediately lets the reader know whether the post is relevant to them. Without knowing this, they might stop reading after the first paragraph.
You can apply the same logic throughout your writing by starting each section with a clear topic sentence, which will set up the reader for what follows.
2. Have a Clear Structure
Breaking your writing up into distinct sections with clear headings will help readers to find the information they need. Key tips for ensuring a clear structure include:
- Make sure each section or subsection covers a single distinct issue.
- Use headings that clearly describe what each section covers.
- Organize sections so that the most important information comes first.
For longer documents, you might even want to include a table of contents.
3. Use Short Paragraphs and Lists
Big blocks of text can be intimidating and hard to read. As such, you may want to break up longer passages to add more white space, which will improve readability.
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One simple way to do this is to use shorter paragraphs. Around two to five lines is usually fine. Even single-sentence paragraphs are fine.
For longer passages, look for ways to break the text down into shorter paragraphs, each addressing a sub-topic from the original full paragraph.
Another helpful tip is to use bullet points and numbered lists for important information. These are much easier to skim read than a single block of text, especially if you’re presenting a series of steps in a process. But they can also help make key details stand out from the surrounding text.
4. Write Clearly and Concisely
Clear, concise writing is crucial for readability. And if you’re writing for skim readers, it becomes even more important. To ensure your writing is easy to read:
- Use language your audience will understand and avoid unnecessary jargon.
- Look out for wordiness, such as redundant pairs and repetition.
- Vary sentence length, using short sentences for impact.
- Try to use the active voice more than the passive voice.
- Summarize key points at the end of each major section.
Make sure to keep your content focused, too. Every paragraph should add something useful or engaging if you want people to keep reading until the end.
5. Think About Visual Presentation
Adding visuals to text can make it easier to skim read and more engaging. Depending on what you are writing about, this might include:
- Using charts and graphs to present key figures, data, or ideas.
- Including images to illustrate key points (or just add some visual variation).
- Creating infographics to summarize the content visually.
Formatting is a factor here, too. Wherever you plan to use your copy, make sure it will be displayed in a large enough font to make it easy to read.
Expert Proofreading Services
To ensure that your writing is clear and concise for skim readers, get it proofread by the professionals. You can even get your first 500 words checked for free today.
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