How to write scannable copy

You’re busy, right? You’ve got lots to do and not enough time to do it.

So when you see a sales page for an interesting product or a blog post that looks like a gem, what do you do? Do you read the entire thing from beginning to end? Or do you skim it?

If you’re like most people, you skim it. And guess what? Your audience does the same thing when they read your website, sales pages, marketing emails, and blog posts.

That’s why I’m using this post to teach you how to write scannable copy—copy that’s specially crafted to fit how your audience “reads” things online.

I share all of my tips and tricks below. So save yourself from a serious case of FOMO and keep reading!

 

 

Easily write scannable copy every time you create a marketing email, sales page, or blog post.
Download my free scannable copy checklist.

 

Why is writing scannable copy important?

You might write your sales pages, marketing emails, and blog posts in the hopes that people will read every word, sentence, and joke. But in reality, that’s just not how people read info online. In fact, research by the Nielson Norman Group shows that when people read online, only 16% of them read text word-by-word.

What does everyone else do? They skim it to get the gist of it. And this means that they read only about 20% of the words you’ve written.

Now, before you get depressed about the fact that most people won’t read most of the copy you spend so much time crafting, consider this: You can still get people to pay attention to your copy. You just need to take a different approach to writing and formatting it.

What’s the secret? Writing scannable copy—copy that people can easily extract your key messages from just by scanning.

Data shows that when your copy is scannable, it boosts readability by 57%. So if you want to get the upper hand on your competitors with your copy (and you should because there’s no shortage of competition out there), focus on writing scannable copy when you create sales pages, emails, blog posts, and other materials to grow your business.

Writing scannable copy: A step-by-step guide

So how exactly do you make your copy scannable? Check out this step-by-step guide & examples:

1. Write short paragraphs

What’s one of the biggest things that will scare off your audience? A colossal chunk of text. Large, dense paragraphs are intimidating, so readers tend to peace out when they see them.

That’s why a key step of writing scannable copy is to keep your paragraphs short—no more than four or five lines long. Short paragraphs seem less overwhelming and more manageable to readers. They’re also easier to scan.

You can even use single-sentence paragraphs to emphasize a key point or a call to action that needs to stand out.

Related: How to cut the flab and write tight copy that sells + free landing page copy template & example

Example: Check out how Melyssa Griffin keeps her paragraphs short to make her copy accessible.

 

scannable blog posts

2. Add subheadings

Once you’ve got your content separated into short paragraphs, you’ll want to add subheadings.

Adding descriptive subheadings for each section of paragraphs will help your audience navigate your sales page, website, or blog post. And if you craft your subheadings well, they can give your audience the gist of your key messages even if they don’t read anything else.

Related: 11 tips for writing landing page copy that converts + free template

Example: This screen shot from Hello Alfred shows how the brand uses subheadings to divide text into different sections.

 

scannable blog posts

3. Make sentences short

Writing scannable copy isn’t just about creating short paragraphs. It’s also about keeping the sentences in these paragraphs short.

A longer sentence is okay every once in a while. But even highly skilled and educated readers don’t want to wade their way through dense sentences. Make your sentences accessible for a wide range of reading levels by keeping them short.

Related: How to write clear, concise web copy that converts + free copy planning worksheet

Example: Check out how ANOVA filled this blog post with short, easy-to-read sentences (although that second paragraph is a tad long).

 

scannable blog posts

4. Use simple language

What’s a great way to write scannable copy by making your sentences short? Use simple language.

Many people default to formal academic prose when they write. But sales pages, marketing emails, and blog posts are usually meant to be more casual and accessible than academic essays and journal articles. This is true even if you’re writing about technical topics like dental equipment or computer programming.

Why is it important to make your copy easy to read? Because when something feels easy to read, people are more likely to actually read it. So if you make your email or sales page easier to read, you’ll find that more people will take the time to check it out.

Make your copy easy to read by using simple, familiar words as much as possible. How simple? As a rule of thumb, avoid using words that are more than four syllables long. (This means throwing words like oversimplification and even investigation out the window.) Essentially, you want to aim for a Grade 8 reading level.

And don’t forget to steer clear of industry jargon unless you’re sure that your audience would be familiar with it.

Related: 6 reasons why people STOP reading your sales page + free list of 100 copy phrases

Example: See how HubSpot keeps things simple with the language they use in their copy.

 

scannable blog posts

5. Swap paragraphs for bullet points or numbered lists

Does your copy contain a paragraph that lists items, key points, or steps? A great strategy for writing scannable copy is to transform this paragraph into a bullet-point or numbered list.

Using bullet points and numbered lists breaks up the sea of paragraphs in a long webpage, blog post, or email (and even in a short one). It also makes the info in the bullet-point or numbered list stand out (which is always a plus).

Example: See how CoSchedule used a bullet-point list to highlight key points.

 

scannable blog posts

 

Easily write scannable copy every time you create a marketing email, sales page, or blog post.
Download my free scannable copy checklist.

Send me the checklist

 

6. Use figures and tables

Another alternative to presenting information in paragraph form is to create a graph, infographic, or table. These visuals are usually easier to process than paragraphs, especially if they contain multiple numbers or other pieces of data. Using them also reduces your overall amount of text. That’s why they’re great for writing scannable copy.

Example: Check out how Moz used a figure instead of text to illustrate a key concept.

scannable blog posts

7. Add images

Even if you don’t have data or information to present in a table or figure, there’s still a way to break up paragraphs in your copy with visuals: add images.

Images may not be essential to your sales page or blog post. But including them is a great way to add some attractive eye candy while separating chunks of text.

Related: The 10 best stock photo sites for your blog or website + 15 bonus sites

Example: Look at how QuickSprout integrated relevant images to break up the text on this page.

 

scannable blog posts

 

8. White space

Writing scannable copy doesn’t just involve being thoughtful about the content that’s on a page. You also want to think about the space around it—the “white space.”

Your sales page or blog post may contain short paragraphs with numbered lists and images to break up the text. But if your paragraphs and visuals are jam packed together on a page with little space between them, your audience might not even try to skim through them.

Make your website, sales pages, and blog posts more approachable and readable by ensuring you have enough white space around each paragraph and visual.

Related: 8 tips and examples for writing a high-converting services page + free template

Example: OPI left room for lots of white space on this page.

 

scannable blog posts

9. Choose a clear, legible font

When you write scannable copy, you also want to make sure that your font is easy to read—regardless of how simple your language is and how short your paragraphs are. Sure, using a quirky font or an elegant, cursive one may look great visually. But it can also make your copy incredibly tricky to read.

When creating a sales page, webpage, email, or blog post, use a sans serif font (which is easier to read online). In addition, make the font at least 14-16 px large, and place at least 24px of space between lines.

You’ll also want to make sure there’s a high contrast between the font colour and your background colour (e.g., black text on a white background).

Example: Caitlin Bacher uses a clear, legible font on this page.

 

Example of adding personality to a sales page

10. Use bold and italics (but do it sparingly)

When you’re writing scannable copy, there’s a way to draw attention to select words or phrases: you can use bold or italics.

This tactic works well when you want to increase the likelihood that scanners will see an important term or sentence in your copy (e.g., a key point or a call to action). Just be sure that you don’t bold or italicize too many words. Otherwise, text in bold or italics won’t stand out.

Example: Look at how Neil Patel uses bold text to make two key terms on this page stand out.

 

scannable blog posts

11. Use links to direct people to other info

When you’re writing a long webpage or a comprehensive blog post, it can be tempting to pack in lots of info. But if you’re trying to write scannable copy, it’s important to remember that most people aren’t going to read all of this info anyway.

That’s why it’s helpful to include internal and external links as a way to direct people to additional information.

Links let you focus on including the info that’s most relevant while boosting your SEO by linking to related pages on your website and other credible websites.

Hyperlinked text also stands out, so it can be a great way to draw attention to key pieces of information people may want to learn more about.

Related: How to properly add links to your blog posts + free worksheet

Example: See how Fitbit uses external links on this page to direct readers to supporting evidence for key points.

scannable blog posts

Writing scannable copy is the way to go

Writing scannable copy doesn’t mean changing what you write about. It simply means writing and formatting your copy in a different way—a way that’s a win-win for you and your audience.

When your website, sales pages, emails, and blog posts are scannable, your audience is more likely to pick up on and process your key messages. And you’re more likely to boost your leads, customers, and sales. Who can say “no” to that?

 

Easily write scannable copy every time you create a marketing email, sales page, or blog post.
Download my free scannable copy checklist.

Send me the checklist

Scannable copy: How to write for your audience online + free scannable copy checklist
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