November 19, 2017

Out of sight, out of mind

Keep paragraphs even shorter for mobile screens

A paragraph that takes up four lines on a 30-inch monitor might well take eight lines — even more — on a mobile screen.

Out of sight, out of mind

Can you see me now? Readers struggle to read paragraphs on mobile devices when they can’t see the whole thing. Image by Cristina Gottardi

That causes a couple of problems:

1. It’s hard to read what you can’t see.

Part of your paragraph might not be visible on your reader’s 2-by-4-inch screen. If that’s the case, readers have to remember the first part of the paragraph as they read the end of it.

Human short-term memory is notoriously awful, which means we need to concentrate extra hard to remember what we can’t see.

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“Long paragraphs are a visual predictor that a story won’t work. You must cut the meat into little pieces.”
— Jon Ziomek, professor at the Medill School of Journalism

Cut Through the Clutter

Measure, monitor and manage readability with a cool (free!) tool

Would your message be twice as good if it were half as long?

Nice and neat

Nice and neat Want to measurably improve readability? Make your piece short and sweet. Image by Mikayla Mallek

The research says yes: The shorter your piece, the more likely readers are to read your message, understand it and make good decisions based on it.

But most communicators (and, let’s be fair, their reviewers) ignore the research and keep piling on the paragraphs. The result? “You’re not more informed,” writes Tom Rosenstiel, former media critic for the Los Angeles Times. “You’re just numbed.”

So how long is too long? What’s the right length for your piece? Your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?

At Cut Through the Clutter — our two-day concise-writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San Francisco — you’ll run your message through a cool (free!) tool to measure, monitor and manage readability.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze your message for 27 readability metrics — and leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for improving each one.
  • Increase reading, understanding and sharing with five techniques for cutting your copy significantly.
  • Stop discombobulating readers with long sentences. Leave this workshop with 11 metrics for reducing sentence length and increasing comprehension.
  • Avoid causing your reader to skip your paragraphs. Find out how long is too long — and leave with three ways to shorten paragraphs.
  • Eliminate multisyllabic pileups from your copy. They’re the No. 1 predictor of poor readability.

Save $100 when you register by June 17.

This is your last chance to take this concise-writing workshop from Ann in 2017. Don’t miss out. Register now.

“I found Cut Through the Clutter to be highly relevant to my daily work, and look forward to putting the tips and techniques into practice. Also, the piece I worked on at the workshop has improved measurably.”
— Scott Worden, manager, corporate communications & PR, Magna International

Polish your skills at these Master Classes

Learn to Master the Art of the Storyteller, Catch Your Readers, Get Clicked, Cut Through the Clutter and more

Register for Get Clicked, Read, Shared & Liked - Ann Wylie’s online-writing workshop in Portland on July 27-28, 2017

Portland | July 27-28

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San Francisco | Aug. 17-18

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New York | Sept. 25-26

Register for Catch Your Readers in Kansas City: Ann Wylie’s persuasive-writing workshop in Kansas City on Nov. 16-17, 2017

Kansas City | Nov. 16-17

Register for Write For The Web and Mobile: Ann Wylie’s online-writing workshop in Miami on Dec. 11-12, 2017

Miami | Dec. 11-12

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Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Birmingham, MI: June 16
  • Geneva: July 6
  • Johnson, RI: Aug. 7-11
  • Kansas City: Nov. 16-17
  • Miami: Dec. 11-12
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  • Northbrook, IL: June 14
  • Plano, TX: Oct. 19-20
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