The Power of Formatting
Author's note: This blog was initially published on LinkedIn as part of my semi-regular (OK, I'll admit that even that's generous to say) #WritingWednesdays series. Connect with me on LinkedIn!
What happens when you use formatting unconventionally?
What if you chose to bold random words in a sentence to see how a person reads your work. Is it distracting? Do readers try to find hidden meaning among the bolded words? Does it confuse the experience?
What if header tags were used at random?
Like if sentences that weren't really headers were given an H2 tag.
Where do the reader's eyes go first? To the headers, I bet. It's an old marketing trick.
Okay, now let's try this one. What if everything were written as one giant paragraph? I'm talking about one mammoth paragraph where sentences kind of run into each other. Where I go from talking about writing, grammar, and formatting to suddenly talking about bubble tea. I read a riveting article the other day (credibility is questionable) stating how bubble tea has wonderful health benefits, like acting as a dietary agency that can help with weight loss or providing the antioxidants to strengthen the body—and oh, the sugar, of course, helps to improve your mood. I feel like it's taking a "glass half full" stance on the whole thing. The key takeaway: it was enough for me to convince myself to buy another bubble tea. Because that's just me when it comes to this obscenely sugary, addictive drink. I find every excuse, despite all reason, to make room for it in my diet. Okay, now back to writing.
Let's test the opposite: words divided by a lot of space.
Some marketers love this trick.
Every sentence has its own line.
Whether in email or blogs, everything is spaced out...
So it's easier on your brain.
You, as the reader, think that you're reading a short piece of content.
When in reality, it goes on and on like this.
Visually, your mind also lets out a big sigh of relief.
Because something about seeing lots of white space is very therapeutic.
Okay, now this one is a classic formatting trick: the good ol' bulleted list. Which would you rather?
Sarah really wants a dog because she is working from home full time, needs a companion, and has fostered dogs and knows how to care for them.
Sarah really wants a dog because she...
Works from home full time
Needs a companion
Has fostered dogs and knows how to care for them
Finally, let's experiment with links. Think about how you feel when you see long links, like this link to an article talking about the Associated Press style (AP Style) of writing. Alternatively, see how you feel when you see a bunch of links spaced together, like this sentence linking to blogs about content marketing, the sales funnel, and SEO.
Which do you like better? Or, do they all look spammy?
Formatting is more powerful than we all probably realize. If we don't like how a piece of content looks, then we probably won't read it. Simple as that.
Hence why in content marketing, how you present your content is almost as critical as what you say. Don't let this detail elude you and make sure to give your formatting some TLC.