Write for your electronic reader

Readers of webpages or emails — or pretty much anything that’s read on a screen— differ greatly from those perusing the newspaper or other printed materials, and a few simple changes to your style can greatly increase the effectiveness of your message.

Get to the point — quickly
While a magazine or book reader may enjoy a leisurely jaunt through the pages, people reading email, web copy, etc., want their information quickly, without having to search for the key messages:

Incorrect
It’s March, and that means it’s time for Main Street Clothing to put our winter apparel away and bring out the springwear. But before we do, we’re holding our annual March Sale, with savings of 20 percent on winter clothing.

Correct
Save 20 percent on winter clothing during our annual March Sale.

Use bullets
Electronic readers skim copy, and bullets catch the eye.

Incorrect
Our Memorial Day menu features hamburgers, hot dogs, barbeque chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, and cold slaw.

Correct
Our Memorial Day menu:

  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Barbeque chicken
  • Ribs
  • Corn on the cob
  • Cold slaw

Use more headlines
Headlines and subheads, like bullets, draw the wandering eye back to your copy. Remember how it felt when a page of you school book was a sea of text? Headlines, subheads, bullets, and graphic elements make the story or message more inviting.

Be brief
We’re too wordy, and it seems the more important a message, the longer we feel it should be. But some of the best remembered communications in our history were short:

Advertisers understand the importance of brevity better than most. A few memorable advertising slogans:

  • Just Do It
  • The Real Thing
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • Got Milk?
  • I want my MTV

Relax
Finally, remember you’re writing to someone. Use clear language, keep it simple, and leave out the fluff. You’ll be fine.

Your thoughts?

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  1. #1 by Maryellen on February 25, 2013 - 9:49 pm

    Writing ‘shorter’ can be a difficult task (especially for old fogies like myself who went to school when the number of words was part of your grade for a paper!)

    The following quote (often misattributed to Mark Twain) from the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal (1623-62) sums it up nicely:
    “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

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