Online Reading Style

Online readers have acquired a negative reputation. “Short attention spans” and “skim readers” are terms that are frequently used to describe them. I admit that I definitely feed into these stereotypes. I never realized one reading habit of mine until I read GOV.au’s content guide of writing style where they report that,

“Most readers don’t read single words in order. They bounce backwards and forwards, especially online. They expect words and fill them in.”

Guilty. I’m also one of the online readers that prefer to have content listed out in bullet points rather than in a long paragraph. In addition to that I also appreciate when writing is presented in what GOV.au calls a 9-year-old reading level. Sentence structure in this style frees content from jargon and is easier to follow. Although I try not to feel offended thinking a 9-year-old and myself are reading the same things.

However not everything I read will be presented in the easy to read bulleted style that I prefer. I’ll admit that often times scholarly articles filled with difficult worlds will leave me lost. Pieces about topics I find uninteresting will also be challenge for me to sit through, a habit I’m trying to break. Jakob Nielson says in, “How Users Read on the Web,”

“Our conjecture to explain this finding is that promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who have to spend resources on filtering out the hyperbole to get at the facts. When people read a paragraph that starts “Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions,” their first reaction is no, it’s notand this thought slows them down and distracts them from using the site.”

Jakob is right, if I have to read something but disagree with what the author is saying, I’m going to have a hard time continuing to read the piece. Contrary to other online readers I do enjoy flowery adjectives and descriptive words. I don’t find that they weigh down pieces and I like when I’m painted an accurate picture, if the adjectives are being used correctly, of course.

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