17 Ways to Increase Your Materials’
Readership and Response
by Trey Ryder
Tip #1: Make sure your headlines are large and bold. You don’t want them
so large that they appear awkward, but large, bold lettering attracts your reader’s
attention and directs his eyes to the beginning of your message.
Tip #2: Use subheads to draw readers through your copy. Many people scan
subheads to get an overview of the contents. If you promise a benefit in each
subhead, your reader will conclude that he stands to reap so many benefits that
he must read your article or brochure.
Tip #3: Choose type faces that are easy to read. Make sure you use common,
everyday styles that look like those used in newspaper and magazine articles.
Avoid fancy type. Avoid scripts. Avoid too many italics. Serif fonts are easier
to read than sans serif fonts. You should always use serif fonts for paragraph
copy. If you use sans serif fonts at all, limit their use to headlines and subheads.
Don’t use sans serif fonts for paragraph copy because they are hard to read
and cause your reader’s eyes to tire quickly.
Tip #4: Don’t use painfully small type. As I get older (I say “mature”),
I find small type really annoying. First, I have to find my glasses. Then I
have to find the small type again. And then, when I finally read it, I usually
learn it wasn’t worth the trouble. Many artists use small type because it’s
supposed to be elegant and stylish. How can anything be elegant or stylish when
it’s too small to read!
Tip #5: Don’t put big spaces between letters. Another technique popular
with artists is to put space between the letters within a single word. This
is supposed to make the wording look upscale and sophisticated. What it really
does is (1) make the words hard to read, and (2) make me wonder who paid money
to an artist to create words that are hard to read. Readability is king. If
your words are hard to read, most people won’t read them. As a result, you’ve
wasted your money -- and lost the opportunity to deliver your message.
Tip #6: Use reverse type sparingly. Type that is said to be “reversed”
or “reversed out” is lettering that is surrounded by an area of solid
ink, where the letters themselves are actually the paper showing through. You’re
fairly safe using reverse type for headlines and sub-heads if you use it to
emphasize only a few words. But do not use reverse type for paragraph copy because
it quickly tires your reader’s eyes.
Tip #7: Don’t use more than two different typefaces in a document. (Bold
and italic variations of the basic type font do not count as different type
faces.) If you limit yourself to no more than two fonts, you avoid a clash of
faces that don’t look good together.
Tip #8: Don’t let lines create obstacles for your words. Writers often insert
a single line to make their layouts more attractive. The problem is, while the
lines are intended to look nice, writers often put lines where they actually
change the visual flow of the page. Last night, I was reading a magazine article
that contained a horizontal line across the middle of the page. When I reached
the line, I went to the top of the next column and continued reading. But the
words didn’t match. I was supposed to jump over the line and continue reading
below it in the same column. But the line obstructed the copy, sent me in the
wrong direction, and interrupted the article.
Tip #9: Set key paragraphs and important words in bold face or italic type
so they stand out from the rest of the copy. Indenting key paragraphs from both
the left and right margins is another way to draw attention to the paragraph.
Tip #10: Justify type to create the appearance you want. For a friendly, informal
appearance, use left-justified type with a ragged right. For a more formal appearance,
use fully justified type. Full justification gives you the added advantage of
allowing you to squeeze more words into the same space. If you fully justify,
proofread the copy to make sure your lines look natural. If you see a line where
the letters are stretched so far apart that they look awkward, see if you can
hyphenate the first word on the following line. This results in the first one
or two syllables of that word returning to the previous line so they take up
the extra space.
Tip #11: Use a column of bullets to emphasize important points. If you have
a series of points you want to make, stack them in a straight vertical column
and put a bullet or other symbol at the beginning of each point. The value of
bullet points is in their straight, vertical appearance. Don’t center the column
of bullet points because when the bullets are not in a vertical row, you lose
the bullets’ value.
Tip #12: Vary paragraph lengths so your copy looks interesting. When your lines
of copy go all the way across a page, try to limit your paragraphs to no more
than seven lines. Not seven sentences, but seven lines. For brochure- and article-copy,
use two or three columns on each 8.5“ x 11” page. This works well
because most people are accustomed to reading newspaper columns, which are fairly
Tip #13: Put a double space (one extra return) between paragraphs so they
are separated by a line of white space. The white space makes the paragraphs
look less threatening.
Tip #14: Break pages at mid-sentence so you “encourage” people
to continue reading on the next page.
Tip #15: Write in lists rather than paragraphs. Many people shy away from
reading paragraphs because they look like blocks of copy. But people like reading
itemized lists because they can read each point quickly.
Tip #16: Make sure your layout flows smoothly from upper left to lower right.
This should be easy if your message is solid copy because people read from left
to right, top to bottom. But things can get tricky when you include photos,
illustrations, sidebars and other graphic elements. You want to avoid having
anything block the visual flow so your reader can easily follow your message
from beginning to end.
For example, in display ads, the coupon, phone numbers or other calls to
action should always be at the bottom, right-hand corner because this is where
the readers’ eyes stop after reading the ad.
Tip #17: Develop your own graphic style and use it in all your written materials.
The repeated impact of your format, even with different content, can as much
as double your material’s recognition and response.
“7 Secrets of Dignified Marketing”
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