As a legal blogger, it’s important to understand the behaviors and patterns of your readers so that you can reach them more effectively. One trend in particular that you should be aware of is the way that people read online. Actually they don’t read — they scan.
In fact, a study from Nielsen Norman Group found that “79 percent of users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.” This means that less than two out of 10 people will actually read your blog posts in their entirety.
This is why it’s so important to create scannable legal content that’s digestible in little, “snackable” bits. Here’s why.
Reading Online Text is Unpleasant
According to another study from Nielsen Norman Group, “reading from computer screens is about 25 percent slower than reading from paper. Even users who don’t know this human factors research usually say that they feel unpleasant when reading online text.”
You could also chalk up readers’ collective reluctance to read online content in its entirety to our microwave culture where most people crave instant gratification. Seldom do readers want to laboriously read through a post word-for-word. They simply want to scan and focus on the points that interest them the most.
How to Create Scannable Legal Content
Fortunately, writing in a format that’s agreeable to readers isn’t all that difficult. It just requires a different approach than what you may be used to.
And it all starts with writing short paragraphs. Like really short.
You’ll typically want to stick with one to four sentences per paragraph. Nothing more. This makes it much easier on the eyes, and the white space between paragraphs allow readers to digest ideas with less effort.
Sub-Headers and Bullet Points
These two formats are perfect for breaking down content in a way that makes it highly scannable. They’re especially important if you’re writing longform content of 1,000 words or more.
A good rule of thumb for bullet points is to use them when you’re listing four or more points. Breaking information down like this puts it in a logical, easy to follow sequence that your readers will love.
Linking to External Resources
Sometimes you’ll find that you want to make a point and discuss a fairly in depth topic, but you don’t want to deviate from the central theme of your blog post. Rather than launching into a longwinded, off topic discussion on your article, you’re better off simply linking to an external resource.
This works well for two reasons. First, you won’t clog up your blog post with excessive information that doesn’t really add to the topic. Second, the readers who are interested can simply click on the link and learn more. However, you won’t upset your rhythm with the readers who aren’t interested.
Writing for a modern, digital audience demands a specific style and structure. By making the effort to create scannable legal content, this will encourage your audience to engage more with your blog posts, which should ultimately lead to more leads and conversions.
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