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How to Make Life Easy for your Readers

In my previous article (about punctuation) I stressed the importance of making your text flow smoothly. Avoid “stalling” your reader. If he finds your article difficult to follow, he might give up altogether in boredom or frustration.

If you find it difficult to work out how to punctuate your sentence then it is probably too long. Split it into two or more shorter sentences and avoid confusing and alienating your readers.

Now we’ll look at more factors that can make life easier for your readers. The goal is not only to keep your readers’ interest right to the end of your article but to make them want to come back for more!

FONT (TYPEFACE)

The knowledgeable will know that the correct word is “typeface”, meaning the shape and appearance of printed characters, but I’m going to use the word “font” because it’s easier to type and read and it’s the word used most often on computers to describe this feature.

When newspapers were first produced, the editors discovered that closely-spaced lines of tiny text were difficult to follow; it was easy to “skip” a line or two, inadvertently, as the eye had to drop down and go from right to left. The solution was to add tiny “feet” (or twiddly bits) called “seriphs” to the characters.

Here is an example of ‘Times’ font, where you can see the seriphs.

I have made the letters larger so that you can see the intricacies more clearly – and therein lies the problem:

The “resolution” of a typical monitor screen is limited to around 72 pixels (dots) per inch. With a small point-size font, the seriphs fade into the background. The characters are blurred and difficult to read. The result is that your readers tire quickly as their eyes are strained. The seriph fonts are unsuitable for screen reading unless you make them unreasonably large.

The “resolution” of a typical monitor screen is limited to around 72 pixels (dots) per inch. With a small point-size font, the seriphs fade into the background. The characters are blurred and difficult to read. The result is that your readers tire quickly as their eyes are strained. The seriph fonts are unsuitable for screen reading unless you make them unreasonably large.

I repeated that paragraph in “Times” font to emphasise the problem. The point size is the same but the characters look faint and blurred compared with a sans-serif font that is designed to be easy to read on-screen.

The lesson is obvious: wherever you have control of the appearance of your article, use a sans-serif font such as Verdana, Arial or Helvetica. (There are many others but the three listed are installed by default on most computers. If you choose one that isn’t on the reader’s computer, one of the three will be used instead because that’s how web browsers work.)

You may use a seriph font (such as Times) for large headings but not for tiny body text.

Make sure that the body text isn’t too tiny. The ideal line length for easy reading (especially on mobile devices) is 7 to 12 words. Of course it’s possible to increase or decrease the text size in most browsers but most people don’t know how to change it (or can’t be bothered).

COLOUR (COLOR)

Colours have a subliminal effect on the reader’s mind. The two extremes are light blue and red. Light blue makes most people feel safe and comfortable. Red is a sign of danger and, subconsciously, makes people angry or afraid.

Most people with normal eyesight find black text (or dark charcoal grey) on a white background easiest to read, with minimal eye strain. White on black or weird colour combinations can cause severe discomfort even when you look away from the screen! Colours with poor contrast (light grey on white or dark grey on light grey) cause eye strain – especially for the elderly.

You can find more information about colour combinations in a free eBook entitled “Color Psychology for eBook Cover” written by J. Black.

Martin Pickering has a degree in Electronics Engineering. In his early teens he used to read five books per week and, since starting his own mail-order business in 1995, has had to answer customer enquiries where unambiguous English is essential. He writes a monthly blog and has published several technical eBooks for Amazon Kindle. He believes that making your articles easy to understand is more important than adhering strictly to the “rules” of grammar. Martin offers a copy editing service and can be contacted at http://www.your-book.co.uk/copyedit/

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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