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How We Read

Understanding How to Write for the Digital Reader

Human beings will consume millions of hours of content on a screen in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter if you don’t spend hours working at your desk with a computer. You really don’t have to look further than your smart phone to see your daily average screen time. It’s very likely to be more than an hour of your day (conservatively speaking!). We’re hooked to our screens, and it informs the way we digest new information, especially how we read online.

Print Vs. Screen

Since a majority of us read online, our reading habits as a society have shifted drastically. According to Research Gate, people take 20-30% longer to read something online than they would if it were on paper.1 English readers were taught to read print from top to bottom, front to back. The flat nature of a screen forces us to read top to bottom and then scroll, providing us with less of a shift in action and less patience, as a result.

Writer Cynthia Marinakos notes that people today read print for leisure, and online to get something done.2 For example, if you want to read at a café, you might be inclined to grab a paperback novel. However, if you want to launch a new content marketing strategy, you might want to grab your laptop!

The Fine Print

As mentioned, the way we read has changed completely since the rise of accessible internet. For marketers, it’s important to know these trends to be able to optimize your content for the highest readership. According to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, humans are “informavores” who hunt for information, and move on.3 Here are some important facts and statistics about digital reading that Nielson outlines, and will help you optimize your content online:

  • Most content online is skimmed, rather than properly read
  • Visitors only read about 20% of the text on an average web page
  • Users will spend 80% of their attention on content above the scroll. Once they scroll, they’re more likely to be distracted
  • Most readers will allocate less than a minute of their time to read a newsletter4

Nielson also notes that most content is read like a large F; we give the top section of an article the most attention, and merely skim the beginning of each row from the middle to bottom.

Writing for the New Reader

As a marketer, you have nothing to be nervous about. Take these insights as learning lessons and adapt your content to achieve the best readership possible. The Writing Cooperative offers some beneficial tips and reminders that can help you succeed.5 Here are some refreshers:  

  • Write like you talk: Using an active, conversational tone in your writing will not only make it more engaging, it will also help you with Google’s search results.
  • Best, First: Make sure you put your most important information up top, and follow with details, statistics or quotes below.
  • Write in Chunks: By splitting up your content using paragraphs, bullets and sub-headings, it becomes more palatable to read thoroughly.

Stop writing only what you want to. When you write for your audience, you’ll be more successful. Rather than letting facts jade you, embrace the insights and work towards making your content more screen-friendly.

Are you struggling to come up with new ideas constantly? Is writing not your strongest suit? We can help! Our team at MintCopy is comprised of experts in SEO and content marketing. Our writers follow digital copywriting best practices to enhance your marketing strategy and help you achieve greater business success online.

Use our online form to get in touch. You can also follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with content marketing trends.

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