Writing your first blog post is an accomplishment (yay you!), but writing a blog post and formatting it so it’s optimized for online reading are two different tasks. While it’s a complete overstatement and simply untrue to say people don’t read on the web, they most certainly do, it is true that before reading, they will quickly scan to see if they should read or not. The key to scannable text is to make the post chunky.
Here’s how to format scannable posts in 8 steps:
1. Start clean
In your Word Doc, spell check and then remove all text formatting, like numbers and indents. You can easily do this by highlighting all text and then choosing the clear formatting feature. Posts created with Google Docs usually copy over with formatting intact, however, you will still need to check your links to ensure they “open” in a new window.
2. Transfer text and fix spacing
Copy and paste the text into the WordPress text editing box. Fix any spacing gaps. You want to have one hard return between paragraphs and bullets/lists. This creates white space. Sometimes you will get spacing gaps around images. This is sometimes due to image size. Try resizing your image.
3. Keep paragraphs as short as possible
You have to consider that your post needs to be optimized for mobile, so break up long paragraphs–even if you have to tweak the writing to do so. Super long blocks of text are a turnoff.
4. Use subheads
Subheads are one of the easiest and most effective ways to create “scannability” in your posts and to highlight and preview content. Plus, when you format your subheads in H2 they will contribute to SEO and they make your text more accessible to those who rely on screen readers. Use the paragraph function to add a Heading. Do not underline subheads (underlining is how links are made visible in many themes.)
5. Add photos/images
Images should be roughly the same size within a post. The image at the top of this post is 600 px x 900 px. Large images can make it hard to scan without a lot of scrolling. Rule of thumb: use an image at the top of the post and then one (or more) towards the middle/end. Make sure you have enough white space between images and text.
6. Embed links using descriptive text
In addition to pointing to sources without having to use citations or bibliographies, links also add a visual element to your post. Your link color/style is set within the theme. Links should be included within the post and not in a group at the end. Here is the WP help page: Follow these instructions. Be sure to set the link to open in a new window. You always embed the link into descriptive anchor text, the word or phrase that holds the link, like I did above with the WP link. Don’t use “click” here or “read more.”
7. Avoid centering text
Centered text is hard to read, especially paragraphs, especially when scanning. When centering short blocks of text, make sure that the lines are split evenly. Don’t leave one word orphaned on its own line.
8. Preview and publish draft
You can preview how your blog will look, but it’s not always accurate. You may have to preview/publish to see if your spacing looks right. Once you publish, you can revert to the draft.
Confused? WordPress to the Rescue
Here is the support page from WP that illustrates the steps above. Be patient. You will experience frustrations and glitches. (You are using the free version and therefore you can’t control all of the fonts and features.) Just do your best and try to have some fun with the experience. Even when you upgrade, you’re still likely to have glitches.