Have you ever tried writing a document – especially for the web – that ends up being too long or wordy? Well, here’s a tip. Break up your content by placing it in lists or tables. Using lists and tables appropriately, allows you to cut down on prose and make your writing easier for your web readers to skim and quickly digest the content, while still conveying your intended message.
Tip #5 – Lists & Tables
Lists – Many bloggers believe that using lists, is a sure way to get attention on social media. Lists make your content clearer and give web readers consistent points from which to grab information. But great and well-written content will always be the main feature that keeps your readers’ attention.
Redish, in her book, “Letting Go of the Words” proffered these four guidelines for writing useful and usable lists:
- Use bulleted lists for items or options
- Use numbers lists for instructions
- Keep most lists short, that is, five to ten items
- Ensure lists are well-formatted. Presentation helps readability.
Tables – As a communication tool…a table provides a familiar way to convey information that might otherwise not be obvious or readily understood (Wikipedia). Tables help you organize data on your page. For example, tables are best used to present a comparison of precise values, or values expressed in multiple units of measure. Tables are also used to answer “if…then” questions. From my “Stuffed Bear Rates” example, if you purchased 16 bears, then the unit cost per bear is 96 cents.
Two keys to the successful use of tables, are: keep them simple, and properly formatted with left-justified text.
Tables and lists are two tools that web writers should have in their writing arsenal. While tables are more used to present complex data, numbered or not, lists are more frequently used to display a variety of other content.
As web consumers, we have all inadvertently met “listicle.” (An article that consists of lists of items only) Though I find it an over-used construct, listicles have taken centre-stage; showing up in large numbers and stealing the show. Examples are: “10 reasons why you should not study social media” or “17 ways to create great content.” Just google “listicle” and you will not be surprised!
Talking about surprises, I will discuss: “5 Great Ways to Write Conversationally” in my next post 🙂