Posted by: runningwinegirl | March 25, 2010

How to write for a ‘scanning eye’

I’m so excited to bring you all this guest post from a smart, savvy public relations professional. Adam Vincenzini is from Melbourne, Australia but has been living and working in London for a while. He’s full of energy and loves life. His blog is always a great read and so is this following post, as part of #BeMyGuest,  on writing content for the quick, on the fly reader. =)



True or false:
You’ll only really read a portion of this post. True.
You’re more likely to entirely ‘skip over’ any long paragraphs. True.
You are probably wasting your time writing for the web at all. False.

[Read this bit]: 79% of web readers are ‘scanners’. Only 16% read word-by-word. Online users spend an average of 4.4 seconds per 100 words. BUT, 100% will give your content a chance if you make it easier for them.

How to write for a ‘scanning eye’

 A mini-tutorial, by Adam Vincenzini (as part of #BeMyGuest Month)

I’ll admit it, I’m a ‘scanner’.

If I open a page and I’m not immediately met by something I’m interested in I’ll head straight for the ‘back button.’

 But if you lure me in the right way, you will have my UNDIVIDED attention. Here’s how you can do it…

5 Tips on Producing Content for ‘Scanners’

1.       Signposting
‘Signposting’ is the key ingredient when writing for a scanner.
Make key information easily identifiable, using a combination of techniques like:
–          Bullet points
–         Different fonts and different colours (within reason)
–          BOLD UP key words or use CAPITALS
–          Use ‘sub-heads’ to break up your copy
–          And DON’T bury your good stuff within long and winding paragraphs

2.       Use numbers effectively

We get drawn to numbers in written copy because they STAND OUT i.e. they are not words

Numbers also give you a sense of expectation i.e. you know what you’re likely to get

This is why ‘Top 10’ posts get shared so much – in a split second we can assess the value of the content and recommend with more conviction.

3.       Be concise

Make your point in as few words as possible.

Avoid using long words that require explanation, or even worse, a dictionary!

And keep sentences to under 15 words where you can.

4.       Use imagery / graphics


A picture not only tells a thousand words, but it draws us to neighbouring copy.

So, place your images within your post tactically.

A rule I try and stick to is ‘left-to-right’ i.e. alternate the positioning of your images from left-to-right throughout your post as this will give the page balance and keep the viewer on his / her toes

5.       Use hyperlinks effectively

A hyperlink (i.e. a link within your copy that’ll take you to another page) is a great way to break up your content.

There are some great tips and hints on hyperlinks here with one on my favourites emphasising a key word within a hyperlink, example below:

A recent post from my blog entitled ‘think audience first’ is another good resource to consult when writing for scanners.

Hyperlinks are also valuable in relation to your SEO.

Wrapping it all up

These tips are in no way designed to take the fun out of writing.

If anything, they should enhance the fun you’ll have as you’ll achieve better traction with your readers.

But don’t become a one-trick pony and write just for scanners – the key to delivering good content is the same as most other things in life: striking that perfect balance.



The COMMS corner

Notes: Adam is the lead social media consultant at Paratus Communications in London.



  1. Those are fantastic tips!! I’m still learning about all things blog (and many things web) so it’s helpful to hear from the experienced voice! Thanks for a #BeMyGuest fan!

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