10 ways to write “scannable” copy

Looking for info? Chances are, you don’t want to read. What you need is a quick way to scan for info and get on with your life.

Writing scannable copy is easy if you know a few tricks.

  1. Keep it short. When possible, use one-liners that are easily absorbed.
  2. Use bullets and lists. These are the heavy hitters of scannable copy. Use them freely.
  3. Employ parallel construction. Start lists and bullets with the same grammatical form, e.g., start all items with a noun or verb.
  4. Promise a number in the title. Readers want to know what they’re getting into. “3 Reasons,” “5 Ways…,” and “7 Types…” all make good promises.
  5. Use links. When a one-liner is not enough, provide links so that readers can choose how much detail they want.
  6. Include graphics. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Creative use of infographics and charts gets the message across in short order.
  7. Break up long paragraphs. More than three lines can be intimidating and many readers will skip them.
  8. Make text boldface for emphasis. Highlighting specific words and terms catches the eye and helps readers hone in on what they need.
  9. Add color… carefully. Color is eye-catching, but too much of it—or too many colors—dulls the effect. Stick to one color, used sparingly, for maximum impact.
  10. Use sidebars and inset boxes. These are great for facts, statistics, and defining terms, plus they break up long blocks of text.


What are your favorite ways of helping readers get the point? Please share!



  1. Curt July 23, 2015 at 7:30 pm ·

    Good tips. All stuff I’ve used in my PowerPoint class.

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