No one reads anymore? Really?

While working on a marketing project recently, I was asked to shorten the copy I wrote because “no one reads anymore.” No sooner did the woman say this that she quickly backtracked … she didn’t mean for it to come out that way, especially when talking to someone whose livelihood depends on the written word!

But it was ok. I knew what she was saying. It’s kind of true … but not completely.

It’s true that people don’t want to read as many words as they once did. Fifty years ago, readers enjoyed reading long, poetic sentences in their newspapers and books. Today, less is more. Get to the point. I’ve got places to be!

business readingAs a result, writing is different. In 1960, writers weren’t competing with TVs, computers, social media and cell phones. So, they could use 50-word, multi-punctuation sentences and they knew people would read it. If I did that today, well … I wouldn’t make a very good living, that’s for sure.

But I disagree with the fact that people don’t read today. We read ALL DAY long now, and not just books, magazines and newspapers. We read texts, blogs, Facebook posts and Tweets that link to online articles, Whitepapers, books on Kindles, e-newsletters – we even read the scrolling messages on the bottom of our news channels while listening to the news. We read – A LOT! (This article refers to it as “textual information.”) I don’t need scientific data to back me up on this. Just think of your own habits. Do you read words from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed? I thought so.

Since today’s reader has so many reading options coming at them, it’s important to write quality words vs. a large quantity of words. Whether you’re working on a letter, newsletter or business proposal, here are some tips that will help you write for today’s reader:

  • Use small words over big words. Use instead of utilize, and that sort of thing. People think they will appear more intelligent when they use big words, but mostly they look silly. Again, 50 years ago, it would have worked just fine.
  • Get graphic. Info graphics are hot right now. Anytime you can pair quality words with a quality graphic, you’ll get your message across most effectively.
  • Be a comedian (when appropriate). Everyone loves to laugh. Weave in a joke when you can to make sure your readers are paying attention.
  • Throw in some bullets. Some people like to scan their materials for specific information. Make it easy for them by adding bullet-pointed lists to what you write.

So before you kill off my profession, look around you. Words are everywhere – and as long as we want to continue communicating, I will still have a job.


Bridget Ingebrigtsen

Bridget Ingebrigtsen owns Write On Command, a company that provides writing and editing services to businesses and not-for-profits. Bridget describes her six-year stint as Anchor Advisors' writer/editor as being "mutually beneficial" -- she helps Anchor Advisors keep their written projects on track and Anchor Advisors helps her keep her business on track. When she's not running her business, Bridget is running after her four children, two dogs and the latest in entertainment news. Connect with Bridget on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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