Use text formatting to improve content comprehension

Business Benefits

Increase content comprehension, shares, and number of readers.

Verify that your content has a specific topic, relevant subtopics, and a distinct purpose before writing the piece.

Plan your piece by listing all the subtopics it will cover, defining the call to action, and describing the goal of the piece, like educate top-of-funnel audience about dog food ingredients. Look over your plan to see if every subtopic fits the defined goal and main topic.

Choose a font that is at least 16px, contrasts with the background color, and is easy to read.

The recommended font size varies between different fonts, device sizes, formats, and audiences. To improve accessibility, offer a font size change button on your blog to let users make the font bigger if needed. Follow best practices for color contrast:

Use a legible, accessible font, like Helvetica, Times New Roman, Calibri, Lucida Sans, Franklin Gothic Book, Tahoma, or Segoe UI.

Outline your article with descriptive H1, H2, and H3 subheadings that preview the main point of each section and follow the proper hierarchy.

Use one H1 for the blog title or page headline, H2 tags for each subtopic, and H3 tags for subsections or lists under H2 tags. Other than the one H1 tag, use as many H2, H3, and sometimes H4 through H6 tags as necessary to break up your text into distinct subtopics. To follow the proper hierarchy, put H3 tags under an H2 tag, which are all under the one H1 tag.

Write short paragraphs that are 3-4 sentences long.

Write short and simple sentences that are typically no more than 25 words and have no filler.

Avoid adjectives or adverbs that don’t add value. It’s ok to use adjectives if your product calls for descriptive language, like a travel company or ice cream brand, but make sure the adjectives have purpose. For example, Ben & Jerry’s style guide outlines which types of adjectives fit their brand voice and which ones don’t. Use concise, active voice in most cases. For example:

  • Say this: She ate the candy bar.
  • Not this: The candy bar was eaten by the woman.

Use words and phrases that are familiar to your audience.

Avoid technical jargon and words that are more than three syllables. If your target audience is familiar with the industry jargon, like senior-level executives, then you can include jargon to avoid having to use extra words, or define the word the first time it’s used. Check your readability with a reading ease tool, like Hemingway Editor, Readable, or Copywritely. Use your best judgement when using these tools.

Break complex sentences or arguments into bulleted or numbered lists.

Avoid long complete sentences as bullet points. Use bulleted lists when each list item is short. Deciding how many lists to use depends on the context and format. For example, a doctors’ office’s blog post that lists the symptoms, treatment, and causes of a disease might use more bulleted lists than the same website’s About us page. Experiment and use discretion to create a balance between scannable paragraphs and bulleted lists.

Bold key phrases and add line breaks before and after key sentences to emphasize the most important points.

To make sure bolding and line breaking creates emphasis, avoid line breaks between every sentence or bolding multiple sentences in a row. Stick to emphasizing only the most important phrases. If you include a bulleted list with an explanation for each list item, bold the list item to separate it from the explanation.

Add relevant multimedia throughout the content to break up the text and provide visual examples.

All images, screenshots, graphs, illustrations, charts, infographics, or embedded videos should add value by clarifying a point or by adding additional information. Provide descriptive alt-text and an image caption to make images accessible.

Scan the draft to ensure the article’s main ideas are included in the introduction, headings, and bolded text.

If the message is still unclear after just scanning the text, work through these steps again, prioritizing breaking up content into shorter paragraphs, reformatting complex information into bulleted lists, and making sure there’s a header for each distinct topic.

Alternatively, overworking the content can lead to a disjointed piece that ends up being harder to follow. Consider asking for a second opinion from a team member. They can tell you if there are too many or not enough images or lists, a subtopic that should get its own heading, or a lack of details.