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April 5, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Formatting

How to Format Web Articles for Clarity & Impact

Writing for different mediums takes different levels of skill and formatting. People don't read white papers the same way they read copy on the web, which is why certain mediums require certain formatting to be effective. Web article copy needs to be thorough yet short, and it needs to be easy to read.

In order to increase your web article's readership, you need to ensure that it is formatted properly. The following are great formatting tips to help give your article clarity and impact.

1. Use lists.

Web articles are more effective when they are in list format. Numbered lists are easy to read, so they help your article's clarity. This is especially true if you are offering step-by-step instructions or a variety of tactics or information (such as this article does). People can easily scan over lists to get their desired information without reading through a ton of paragraphs.

2. Use bullet points.

If your article includes information that impacts your story, such as statistics, use bullet points to highlight this information. People tend to notice bullet points because they stand out from the regular article format. And sometimes, bullets are all that readers will pay attention to. Bullets are also great for information that needs to be highlighted quickly, but doesn't make sense to use with a numbered list.

3. Use headings.

If your article cannot be written in list format, implement the use of headings or subheadings. This will help direct your readers to the information they want, and it serves as a brief summary of the information that is about to come. If someone comes across your article and is in search on one specific piece of information, a heading will help them find it more easily.

Subheadings are also a great tool to use to break up your article. If readers see a ton of paragraphs on a web page, they may be overwhelmed to read the whole article. Subheads create a break in the article, making your readers feel more comfortable to tackle it.

Headings also add clarity to your article. Without headings or subheadings, some articles can bounce from one topic to the other and come across as being very choppy or hard to follow. By placing a heading or subhead in your web article, it will help tie all the paragraphs together.

4. Go bold (or go home!)

Make sure that your numbered lists, bullet pointed items or headings/subheadings are either bold or placed in a larger font than the rest of your article. People will be drawn to the items that stand out, and since most readers may only take the time to scan what your article is about, they will be first attracted to the items in bold or larger print. If this information stands out and piques their interest, they will be more inclined to read the whole article.

When writing articles for the web, it's important to remember that there are formatting tricks that will help the impact and clarity of your content. Implementing these formats will make your content more attractive to your readers, and as long as you continue to produce great content, your easy to read articles will create happy readers.

Mark Weatherford is a high school English teacher and published author who loves to blog in his free time. He is an advocate for grammar checkers and often encourages his students to utilize them to proof their work for grammatical infractions. However, cooking is not among Mark's skills and in order to survive he resorts to quick and easy meals.


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