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Text, Blogs, and Readability

This entry will be repeated twice. Once, in an unreadable format, once in a readable format.

The unreadable:

Many people write their blog entries like they were writing a book - no paragraph indents or spacing between paragraphs. Some don't even use paragraphs at all. They just run all their thoughts together, spewing unconnected run-on sentences one after the other and calling it writing. They... even... pollute it with... unneeded ellipses and overblown punctuation!!!!!!!!!!
To make a blog entry easily readable, you need to write short, concise paragraphs. These paragraphs should be separated by a blank line - a vertical space, if you will. Not five lines, or even three, but one full line. These paragraphs should be no longer than 5 or 6 lines of text when finally rendered on the average screen. Anything more and the reader's eyes start to glaze, and they see only a tl;dr wall of text, not your thoughts.
So, there are rules for blog writing. They are often ignored by some "A-list" bloggers, because some people read their ego-tripe regardless of how cross-eted it makes them. But the rest of us ordinary folks? We need to format, spell check, and use punctuation somewhat properly.
The rules: DO break your text up into reasonable length paragraphs of less than 6 formatted lines. DO keep your paragraphs coherent and inter-related. DO use capitalization, punctuation and spaces to separate sentences. DO capitalize proper names (exception is lj tags). DO put one blank line between your paragraphs, to let the reader know that that thought cluster is done. DO use bulleting and lists to make lists readable. DON'T abuse punctuation. DON'T overuse literary devices like ellipses. DON'T play games with fancy fonts for body text.
These rules are simple, yet every day I get headaches trying to read some tripe disgorged by some nit who won't do me the courtesy of making their thoughts readable. The web is not like a book, or an English paper. People are reading your words on a screen. Be considerate of their eyes, please.

Now, the readable:

Many people write their blog entries like they were writing a book - no paragraph indents or spacing between paragraphs. Some don't even use paragraphs at all. They just run all their thoughts together, spewing unconnected run-on sentences one after the other and calling it writing. They... even... pollute it with... unneeded ellipses and overblown punctuation!!!!!!!!!!

To make a blog entry easily readable, you need to write short, concise paragraphs. These paragraphs should be separated by a blank line - a vertical space, if you will. Not five lines, or even three, but one full line. These paragraphs should be no longer than 5 or 6 lines of text when finally rendered on the average screen. Anything more and the reader's eyes start to glaze, and they see only a tl;dr wall of text, not your thoughts.

So, there are rules for blog writing. They are often ignored by some "A-list" bloggers, because some people read their ego-tripe regardless of how cross-eyed it makes them. But the rest of us ordinary folks? We need to format, spell check, and use punctuation somewhat properly.

The rules:
* DO break your text up into reasonable length paragraphs of less than 6 formatted lines.
* DO keep your paragraphs coherent and inter-related. DO use capitalization, punctuation and spaces to separate sentences.
* DO capitalize proper names (exception is lj tags).
* DO put one blank line between your paragraphs, to let the reader know that that thought cluster is done.
* DO use bulleting and lists to make lists readable.
* DON'T abuse punctuation.
* DON'T overuse literary devices like ellipses.
* DON'T play games with fancy fonts for body text.

These rules are simple, yet every day I get headaches trying to read some tripe disgorged by some nit who won't do me the courtesy of making their thoughts readable. The web is not like a book, or an English paper. People are reading your words on a screen. Be considerate of their eyes, please.

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
sunfell
May. 31st, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
I like simple, clean styles that draw the eye, and subsequently, the mind. That is why I am into block paragraphs and inset blockquotes, and if needed, careful, sparing use of italics, bold, underline, and strikethrough (which amplifies ironic content). But not too much. Inline tags for web-links are nice, too.

Brains appreciate some semblance of style. I know I like to write the way I like to read.

Edited at 2008-05-31 10:06 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Jun. 1st, 2008 03:50 am (UTC)
There's another rule for readability. Color selection for backgrounds and fonts.

Can anyone else read red or blue letters on a black background? I know I can't.
ravan
Jun. 1st, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. Contrast and color are very important. Pink text on a black background? Murder on the eyes. If I do dark backgrounds with light text (which is seldom), I never go full black, and tend to use a very high contrast for the text.
weofodthignen
Jun. 1st, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
There are apparently all sorts of rules for web page design; those of us with neither a computer background nor a design background tend to be clueless about them. And I think it's still true that one of the jarring things about the net for those who are new to it is the look of pages. This standardized LJ page I am typing in, for example, with the big blue bar on the left, and the font that's not like in a book. So the learning curve is steep, and most casual bloggers never go far up it.

I like long paragraphs. Or rather, I find that I need long paragraphs to develop most of my points--when I use short ones it's for impact--and I find most of the writers I enjoy reading also use long paragraphs most of the time. People who tend to write short paragraphs, that's fine, that's their style; it doesn't grate on me the way errors of usage do. The only time I object to it at all is if the ideas seem artificially broken up the way they tend to be in newspaper columns. So I just have a different response to a block of text :-)

I do need to figure out how to make bullets tho; sometimes one needs that.

. . . And I put this here because Noil is an extremely experienced web designer, and by all reports damned good at it, yet I do find the current iteration of the HT site hard to read because of the red on black. Nobody else has said that, so I reckoned it must be just me. Just as I've been thinking it's just me who finds it hard to read the teensy print some styles have on their comment pages. But I hardly want to rely on my own taste--I'm very much not a designer, and I like black on white.

So I see your point, and hmm, didn't realize anybody might find my paragraphs too long because it's a screen they're reading on.

M
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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