The majority of online readers prefer documents whose layout makes reading efficient while remaining informative. Writers have many tools available to organize information-rich text in an accessible layout. The most effective tools are:
- bolded font,
- underlined font,
- italicized font, and
- bulleting / numbering, and
The following explains the uses of these tools while offering guidelines on where to incorporate these tools in the text.
Of all the above mentioned tools, bolding is the most effective at catching readers’ attention because the added thickness makes the text stand out. Bolded text should be used to indicate the different major sections of a text. For example, this blog employs bolded font to set apart the discussion of the different tools used in rendering content more reader-friendly.
Underlining is the most flexible of all of the tools. If one wants to set off different content sections in a less dramatic, non-bolded fashion, then underline the section headings. If one wants the section headings to be more prominent, then bold and underline the font. If the text has several layers of information then bold the major category headings and underline the subcategory headings. For example, a text discussing animal categories and subcategories could bold the category headings and underline the subcategory headings. The text would look like this:
Italicizing a word or words serves to differentiate them from surrounding text in a more subtle way. Italicizing works most effectively in setting off a direct quotation or in giving emphasis to a word or words within a sentence. For example:
The children yelled “Here comes the ice cream truck!”
The gentleman mistakenly got in the wrong car!
Another use for italicized font would be to set off ancillary text. For example, one frequently sees “quantities limited” after product information in fliers and catalogs.
Bulleting / Numbering
Bulleting helps to set off lists. Most people become familiar with bulleting text when writing a CV. Potential employers often receive hundreds of CV’s and need to be able to quickly identify the skills and experience of each applicant. For this reason, a successful CV lists one’s skills, education, and experience with bullets thereby allowing the potential employer to easily assess the qualifications of each candidate. Any text containing lists or ordered instructions should employ bullets or numbers. While making the information easier to wade through and follow, the offset bullets or numbers also helps the reader locate the information or instructions in the text. Notice how the bullets used for the initial presentation of this tools list informs the reader as to the text’s content.
Tabbing, or pushing the text deeper into the page, works best when incorporating a rather large quotation, setting off different category levels or providing examples of what one has just described in the main text. With respect to lengthy quotations, tabbing facilitates the readers’ ability to locate the beginning and the ending of the direct citation. With respect to subcategories or examples, occasionally bullets and numbers don’t mesh with the flow or the look of the text. In this case, tabbing works better.
Today’s internet reader approaches online content much differently than other texts. Online readers consult online content in order to locate specific information, scanning the text to get right to the area relevant to their search. In addition, readers cannot view the entire text at once due to screen size limitations. As the writer of online content, it is imperative to make the different areas of the content conducive to scanning and scrolling. For that reason, strategic use of bolded font, underlined font, italicized font, and bullets / numbers will assure that the reader will benefit from what you have to share and will return to your site because of the reader-friendly nature of your writing style.