Content is everything, but structure matters, too. And as modern internet users, we’re savvy enough to judge the content before us and only then decide if we’re going to spend any time reading it. A user will scan your page quickly, and you’ve got to impress upon them quickly that whatever you’re writing is worth a read. So how’s it done?
What is Good Structure?
Remember newspapers? Remember how they used to print articles in narrow columns? That was so that readers could parse the text quickly and get that information.
If in the arcane days of the printing press, speed reading was a useful skill that could save you time, and we’re arriving at the point when it is second nature to all of us. With the rate and volume of information we have to consume, it’s almost a survival skill.
The lesson here is that your structure must adhere to the reader’s needs. If you’re writing a problem-solving article (“How to tell if the chicken is undercooked”), especially one with a quick solution, your reader won’t read the introductory paragraph about how you discovered this method or the anecdote about how you saved your friend’s life with this. If they have to scroll to find the solution, the tab is getting closed on you, and they’re moving on to the next link they found in the search engine of their choice, because it’s simply much quicker that way to find out that you need to cut the chicken and check if it’s pink.
If you’re writing a post that dissects an issue in-depth, feel free to allow for thicker paragraphs — it will give you more credibility in the reader’s eye (remember, we’re talking about a first scan here), but know that it’s best to spice it up so the text doesn’t seem monotonous.
How to Add Variety to Your Post Structure
Always have subheadings. When we talk about readers intuitively scanning the article, the thing they look at are the following: title, lede, picture, subheadings — in that order. You’re doing the reader, and, by extension, yourself, a disservice by not giving them something in your article they can use to get a foothold.
Besides for scanning, subheadings will mean a lot for your SEO, so make sure you include some major keywords in those.
Be bold. Take advantage of the highlighting capabilities you have at your disposal, and mark the most important parts of each section. When users are going down the page, they will take note of these after the subheaders.
But it’s also important not to overindulge. Remember, if you’re highlighting everything, you’re not highlighting anything, and a mix of words in seemingly random italics, bolds and underlines will remind someone of an Angelfire page from 1999, and not a text they can trust.
Maggie does it wrong
When using Write! you can quickly create subheadings, bolds and italics using Write!’s markdown editor capability. Try it out, and be amazed at how quickly you can create rich, beautiful texts after learning to use Markdown, Wiki and Textlie.
Another great way to add variety to your posts is using pictures. But again, beware of overindulging — you don’t want to look like you collected some random words around .jpegs as an excuse to post pictures. Unless, of course, that’s the point, and if it is, you don’t need to exert yourself to keep readers’ attention while they scroll their time away through “22 Times We Were Like Whaaat?”, they probably don’t have much attention to give in the first place.
How to Prepare a Well-structured Post
The most important thing you can do in preparing your structured post is creating a detailed outline.
Write down all the points you’d like to make in your post, and group them together by similarity. Inevitably, some will overlap or seem out of left field, so before you write, take a moment to edit the outline (yes, the outline) and manage what goes where and after what.
After you’ve got your major information blocks ready, write! Remember, the more time you spend on creating an outline, the less time you’ll have to edit the final piece. Outlining is not just a matter of organizing things in your article, after all, it’s also a matter of organizing things in your head.
After you’re done writing, and you’ve checked and double-checked for any grammatical errors, paste it into WordPress or what have you, and try to look at it as if you’re seeing it for the firs time. Is it scannable? Can you parse the info easily? Can you tell at a first glance what the content of the post is? What the main points are? If the answer to all of those is yes, congratulations, you’ve created a well-structured post. Good on you.