It’s In The Writing: Combat “Scanners” by Getting to the Point Faster

person typing on a laptop

You’ve written what you think is a solid 1,000 words on a topic in which you’ve an expert. It covers all the key points, you make all the arguments flawlessly, and you post it online where you normally post these sort of articles.

Too bad most of what you wrote will never get read — not because it wasn’t found online, but because people don’t read.

According to the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, readers only consume 20% of content on a page. That means only about 200 of your in-depth, thoughtful, priceless words will reach people’s eyes and brains (as for what’s comprehended and remembered, that’s a different issue altogether).

Given that readers only consume 20% of content on a page, what should you do to combat this?

You could write shorter, start with the most important information, or simplify the language. They’re all important, but I would argue the most important is the put the most important information first.

Here’s why: People don’t read online copy the same way they read books or magazines. They do what the website Econsultancy calls “scanning.” They scan the web page looking for the answer to their question. Usually, that question deals with a pain point: Can you solve my pain point? So, start with that I can solve your pain point.

I’m not saying the other two choices aren’t right answers, too. You could make the argument that all of the above is the best choice. Writing shorter increases the odds that more will be read, and using easy-to-understand words also keeps people reading.

So, write copy with scanners in mind. Start with the most important information first. Many people subscribe to this outline: This is what I’m going to tell you, this is me telling you, this is what I’ve told you.

But also consider some of Econsultancy’s tips: using descriptive headlines, bolding the most important info, making your headlines descriptive and to the point, and keeping the paragraphs to 1-2 sentences.

It is still possible to write compelling copy that’s brief and to the point. In fact, it’s becoming required. Make sure you can, or hire someone who can.

Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan

Imagine cradling your book in your arms. See yourself thumbing through the pages, reading the words, recognizing that what’s contained therein is your story, laid out for all to see. This symbol of your life is part catharsis and part healing. Your journey is complete, and you’ve reached the people who needed to hear your story.

You have a story that just has to be told. If you don’t get it out of your head, you will regret it. You know that if people just could tap into the wisdom that's inside you, their lives would change for the better.

You’ve probably been feeling like you need to sit down and get it on paper. But you haven’t made it a priority. Maybe it’s because you hate writing or you don’t consider yourself a writer. Perhaps the thought of you dedicating hours a day to organizing and writing your story is too overwhelming when piled on top of life’s demands.

Or maybe you’re beset with terror: "What if my story isn’t interesting or compelling enough to reach a wide audience? Am I good enough to tell it? Can I make it irresistible, a must-read?"

You're not alone. The vast majority of people who have experienced what life has to offer have a story to tell that’s worthwhile, unique and compelling, but they never get to do it for a wider audience.

Why is it so hard? Why are you like the 97% of people who start their book don’t finish it? There is a world of difference between having the story in your head and being able to get it down on paper.

What most people don’t realize is that having the story and writing the story require two different skill sets.

The more worthwhile and compelling your story is, the more critical it is to have a professional writer give it the treatment it deserves so it will touch lives in the way you envision. That’s why it’s so important to partner with a specialist who’s an expert in the art of storytelling. Your story is too important to leave to an amateur.

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