Thursday, April 19, 2007

Get to the point: writing for skimmers (part 2)

In the last eTip I talked about how much we are influenced by the subject lines and 'from' fields when choosing to either delete or open an email.

But once your email has been opened, what then? Readers will typically give you seconds rather than minutes of their time. You need to ensure even the flightiest of skimmers gets your message. For example:

Use brief subheads

Subheadings or emboldened key words focus the reader's attention. They and can be used to either
  • intrigue them into reading more, or
  • summarise in a couple of words what that paragraph is about
Use bullet points
  • bullets or numbered lists are easier to skim than long paragraphs of prose
  • three is the magic number but certainly no more than seven

Make calls to action prominent

If there's one thing you want people to do, put it somewhere prominent in the top two inches (for those who won't scroll down) and again at the end (for those who read it all before they decide to act).

Some research I've seen suggests that graphic buttons are more likely to be clicked on than hypertext links, but that's something you should test as audiences vary.

Keep sentences & paragraphs short

Think bite-sized. Bonsai. Haiku. This needn't be an excuse for poor writing though. It's actually harder to write less - something you'll know if you've ever sweated over a subject line for half an hour!

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