If the person in front of you talks in a monotone, never pauses for comment, and drones on and on and on….you are talking to a bore. Unfortunately, writing can easily become boring if it, too, consists of great blocks of uninterrupted words. And you know what people do when they see bores and boredom looming: they run.
Here are six ways to break up your message, make your writing less boring, and keep your readers reading.
- Numbered lists. People love articles of advice that begin with “Five Ways to…” and they appreciate instructions that clearly show them “Step 1….Step 2….” and so on. Numbered lists reveal right away how much text a reader will have to read. They also provide logical breaking points (say, between Step 8 and Step 9), if the reader needs a moment’s pause.
- Bullets. If you have a list that doesn’t lend itself to numbers, try bullets. Bullets are the first choice, for example, in listing accomplishments in a resume or LinkedIn profile. Be careful not to create overlong bullets that are still simply great blocks of text. Also be careful about consistency. When you change bullets too often, they come across as sloppy; and you confuse the reader about each bullet’s importance.
- Headings. Headings and subheadings are an easy way to break up your message and guide a reader from one important topic to another. They also give readers a chance to pause before absorbing more information. Make sure that you keep your headings or subheadings to 2 or 3 levels at most. If you find yourself creating a level 4 subheading, you are probably overdue for a new main heading.
- Bolding/Italics. Bolding and italics immediately direct a reader to important information, and the emphasized words serve as an instant summary. However, emphasis can also be overdone. The general rule of thumb is: The more methods used to emphasize text (bold, italic, underline, small cap, and so on), the less power any of them have.
- Short Paragraphs. Limit your paragraphs to 4 or 5 sentences and each sentence to no more than (and preferably less than) 30 words. When you join short paragraphs to any of the other suggestions above, you let your readers feel that reading your content will be easy and enjoyable, as opposed to overwhelming and boring.
- Graphic Design. I love professional graphic designers. With a change in font size, the positioning of a photo or video, or any number of other graphic techniques, they draw a reader’s attention and hold it. Graphics allow the reader’s eye to rest from reading and may decrease the need for a lot of explanatory text. One warning: the magic professional graphic designers perform often becomes design overload in amateur hands.
Do you need help to break up your message and make your writing less boring? When clear and interesting communication is important to you and your customers, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications.