Posted by Catie Holdridge
Itâs not always true that your readers will want to read everything youâve written â particularly if itâs a 300 page document. Even if youâve done all you can to break it up and make it as readable as possible, the demands of time we all face may mean they can only skim it.
Subheads can signal to your reader what linked paragraphs are about and help them to navigate through more easily to the most relevant parts. They also help you to check back over your own ârouteâ: did you pick the best way?
Transition words (so, however, on the other hand, nevertheless, moreover, furthermore etc.) also signpost meaning to your reader, helping them to understand your points and stay with you through your changes of direction as you motor towards your conclusion.
Be careful though: endless âmoreoversâ and âfurthermoresâ can be tedious and wonât stitch a loose collection of random thoughts into a compelling argument, no matter how many you use. Far better to plan first and work out a logical structure even before you touch your keyboard.
Thereâs more on subheads and structure in our 60-page Write Stuff style guide. To get your complimentary copy, click here and select âstyle guideâ from the drop-down menu.
Posted by Barbara Wilson
According to childrenâs literacy website Reading Rockets, when kids start to read, they like to mirror the writing they see around them. So, if they see you writing a list, they may well write one too.Â If youâre writing in your diary, theyâll probably have a pretend one too.
Most parents will help their children get better at writing by practising forming letters with a variety of mediums: paper, sand, snow â or even in the air. Itâs also good to read things which just happen to be around and might well catch the eye â like cereal packets, for instance. So, how confusing is the font for Kelloggâs Adopt a Monkey campaign?
As a marketing idea the Adopt a Monkey campaign is a cracker. It ticks all the boxes: cuddly animals, conservation and charity.
But who designed the font? With capitals D, N, H, P and G slung with gay abandon in the middle of words on both the Kelloggâs and Born Free sites, theyâre making reading and writing just that bit harder for a major part of its target audience.
Do you baulk at, âKeePiNG WiLDlife in tHe WiLDâ, or âBorN Freeâ, or is it just me? Do you feel this curious choice of script is designed to make a younger audience feel at ease because these are the kinds of mistakes kids make when theyâre learning to write? In that case we could soon be going down the crumpled paper, smudge-infested route. Perhaps with the odd dribble or bogey on: thatâs common in kidsâ efforts too.
So: Adopt a Monkey â great idea, guys. But rein in those designers or youâre only making an already complicated system even more difficult for those just starting out.
Posted by Barbara Wilson
To bullet or not to bullet â that is the question. Bullets can bring clarity to an otherwise dense report. But overuse them and they will make a document very difficult to read. Here’s what I think, in bullets.
Bullet lists always need an introduction (like this one) and are good for:
â˘ concise web content
â˘ conveying key information
â˘ breaking down complex lists
â˘ summarising main points
â˘ instructions (especially if numbered)
â˘ shopping lists.
They have the advantage that they:
â˘ make lists clearer, as they are more visual
â˘ use white space well
â˘ grab attention
â˘ help readers scan information
â˘ reduce word count
â˘ make assessment criteria or marking systems clearer
â˘ delineate points well.
Bullets can be particularly useful in technical writing. In our experience, they’re popular with scientists and engineers, many of whom overuse them (as a substitute for structured prose). Historians and policy makers prefer connected text, and so often underuse them.
But few people like them when:
â˘ there are too many
â˘ the points are too long
â˘ they are for unimportant details
â˘ you want to become involved in the story and so need connected text
â˘ they contain emotional content
â˘ visuals would be better
â˘ the punctuation is erratic and distracting
â˘ the points are in incomprehensible jargon
â˘ a presenter reads from them in PowerPoint (as we can read faster than she can speak)
â˘ some of them are very much longer than others and itâs difficult to really see what the point of this particular type of bullet point is â in fact when the writer is just rambling on and simply wasting the readerâs time. (Annoying, isnât it?)
So, have your say. Do they mainly help the writer or can they be a great boon to the reader? Do they turn you off or do you relish their conciseness? Do you agree that some professions prefer their language to be information dense and others like the writer to use connected text and involve their readers in a story? Weâd like to hear what you think.