Write To Be Scanned

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Writing for the computer screen is different than writing for the printed page. There is actually a physiological difference between the two reading materials. Paper, as you’ve noticed, doesn’t flicker (unless it’s on fire). If you need more light to read by, you can always turn on another light or move closer to the window. But a computer screen does flicker. How fast it flickers is called the refresh rate, and the refresh rate of most monitors is set too low by detault. And if you aim another light at your computer screen, you’ll only get more glare.

All this means that the eyes of your readers will tire out faster when they read from their computer monitor. So people will be anxious to read faster. In the old days, you could pore over the latest letter from your grandmother over a cup of tea. Don’t expect your customers to sip tea while they read your sales letter, unless you’re a very captivating writer.

What is the best way to write for the screen?

  • Write short. Get to the point. Say it quickly. Use the inverted pyramid style of writing, like a reporter does.
  • Write in lists. Use bullets – those little marks that begin each line in this list. Or if you’re writing instructions (a form of technical writing), discuss each step in order and use numbered lists instead of bulleted lists.
  • Write to be scanned. Most people who read computer screens are looking for information. Help them to find the information as soon as possible.

You may think you should hide the juicy bits within a flowing, glowing sales pitch (such as your price and how to order) in hopes your potential customer will read all of it. But if you don’t provide the information your reader wants before they get impatient, they will go somewhere else.

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