When it comes to writing online, size matters.
I’m not talking about the length of your emails, blog posts, or sales pages (I’ll deal with those in a separate blog post sometime soon)…
… I’m talking about something more basic: the size of your words on your website pages and emails, and the dimensions in which they’re arranged.
See, the thing is, reading words online is HARD on the eyes – even if you have the eyes of an eagle (unlike me, cursed with the eyes of a mole).
That’s because staring at a backlit computer screen strains your eyes and causes them to tire much faster than reading words on a printed page.
In fact, studies show that people tend to read only 28% of the words on a web page. We scan content seeking to get the “gist” of it rather than forcing ourselves to read every single word, simply because it’s easier on our eyes.
So when it comes to writing for Internet, be sure to format your message in a way that makes it as easy to read as possible. Otherwise, your visitors won’t stick around long enough to understand what you’re trying to say.
Which brings us back to the topic of size… here are three important dimensions that play a huge role in ensuring the words on your website are super easy to read:
1. YOUR FONT
The size of font plays a HUGE role in the readability of your website. Many default website themes use 12-point paragraph font because that’s what we tend to use in printed documents.
But online, that’s way too small for easy reading.
Check out this copy I took from a WordPress website theme to see what I mean:
I had to shrink the image to fit it into this blog post, but you can see the website theme it came from HERE.
By way of contrast, this blog post you’re reading now uses a 15-point font for its paragraph font. Do you see how much easier these words are to read?
Now let’s move on to the second dimension that plays a huge role in readability:
2. LINE LENGTH
The line length is basically what determines how wide your paragraphs are – or how far your words stretch across the page.
The wider the line length, the bigger you’ll want your font to be.
Many default websites these days have paragraphs that stretch all the way across a wide page. That’s a huge no-no for readability. See what I mean?
You can see the live demo of the theme I took this from HERE. (The light grey font isn’t helping the readability factor, either.)
According to fancy-pants experts who study this kind of stuff, the optimal line length for online reading is 50-75 characters per line. If you’re using a 14-16 point font, your line length should be around 600-650 pixels max. Any longer and readers won’t be able to easily scan the whole thing end to end, and much of your meaning will get lost.
If you absolutely love having words stretch farther across the page in places, I highly recommend using a 20-point font or higher, and limit the line length to about 800 pixels max. Otherwise the line will simply be too long to read in a single glance.
All right, let’s look at the last measurement you’ll want to consider for ensuring maximum readability of your content:
3. PARAGRAPH LENGTH
To make your text as easy to scan as possible, limit your paragraphs to six lines maximum. If they’re any longer, the content in the middle of your paragraph will get lost in the mix and readers will won’t get the full gist of what you’re trying to say.
I also recommend you use a “choppy” paragraph structure using paragraphs of varied lengths as opposed to one similarly sized paragraph after another.
Our eyes find it hard to read paragraphs that are always the same size, so it’s better to mix them up and use, say, a two-line paragraph by a four-line paragraph by a one-line paragraph.
PRO TIP: Make sure your one-line paragraphs emphasize an important point or contain a hook to keep the readers moving further down the page.
For example, compare this paragraph:
With this paragraph:
Which do you think is easier to read? (And yes, maybe I cheated a bit by bolding the key phrases in that last example. What can I say? I’M A SUCKER FOR READABILITY.)
It’s not the size of the wave… oh, who are we kidding
So those are the three important “sizes” that play a huge role in determining how readable your website copy is.
And the easier your writing is to read, the more your readers will love you for it!