When you’re preparing a long document, how do you give it the best possible chance of success?
From white papers to reports and client alerts, long blocks of text can put off potential readers.
And with your audience more pressed for time than ever, it doesn’t take much for someone to decide they’ll come back to your writing… only to forget about it five minutes later.
There are lots of ways to make your text visually more attractive, and it’s not simply about making your document easy on the eye.
These stylistic devices each provide a new opportunity for readers to engage with your text. That is, they provide multiple points of entry.
If you’re faced with a solid, continuous block of text, there’s only one place to start: the beginning.
But a good designer working with an experienced copywriter can provide lots of different potential hooks to capture your reader. By breaking up your text, you’re creating a range of possibilities to entice someone into your world.
Here are six of the most common techniques:
1. Pull quotes
Find the most juicy, eye-catching phrase, thought or sentence in your body copy and use it in large type as a separate design element.
2. New paragraphs
Arguably the most overlooked technique of all. Simply by splitting one long paragraph into three short ones, your copy becomes instantly more appealing.
A common myth is that professional or ‘business’ writing needs long paragraphs.
But check any of the UK’s quality newspapers, and most rarely use more than two sentences in a single paragraph. Often, they rely on just one.
3. Bullets / numbered lists
One of the most readable ways of presenting copy, bullets or numbered lists also generate large amounts of white space.
They distil larger pieces of information into smaller, more manageable snippets.
4. Commentary/analysis box
Summarise or conclude your findings, or add an opinion from another voice, by presenting a small amount of copy in a separate box. This box will often be in a different colour to the rest of the page and contain its own headline.
This feeds into the idea of giving your readers multiple entry points. Clear information that’s well presented will attract the eye.
Subheadings don’t just benefit your reader: they also help you, as author, best organise your thoughts and structure your copy.
They also offer the reader the chance to focus only on the area of your copy that interests them most.
If, for example, they are an expert on most of what your article covers, but you address one area they do not know about, they can engage with that section only rather than wade through hundreds or thousands of words on a topic with which they are already familiar.
And for web copy, sub-headings also offer an SEO opportunity by using H2 tags.
6. Visual / graphic
A chart, image, graphic or infographic all bring variety to your copy – and can add extra depth to your work by presenting your findings in a different way to long chunks of text.
What techniques do you use to break up your text and engage more effectively with readers? Let us know if we’ve missed any!