Are We Living in a Ctrl+F Culture?

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When is casual writing okay?

“I use Ctrl+F all the time,” I said.

“Yeah, we’re living in a Ctrl+F culture.”

Our content manager, Danny, and I both laughed at his having coined a new phrase. It was a throw-away comment and he didn’t mean it to be a serious thought, but then we started talking about how it was kind of true — were we really living in a Ctrl+F culture? And if so, how does that affect the content we write?

As the conversation continued, the term evolved.

We ultimately decided the label “Ctrl+F culture” was too limiting. Yes, our attention spans are shorter. And yes, we expect answers faster than ever. But we decided a better term would “Ctrl+F Content.”

What is Ctrl+F Content?

Ctrl+F Content might suggest by its name that it refers to content stuffed with keywords so readers can run a quick Ctrl+F search to find what they’re looking for. But that’s not what we mean.

Rather, Ctrl+F Content refers to content geared towards a web searcher looking for quick answers. That is, a web searcher needing a quick answer who grows frustrated with poorly formatted content that obstructs the answers they want. A web searcher who, rather than read chunky paragraphs hoping to eventually stumble across the information they need, instead does a Ctrl+F search to find the answer they’re looking for.

Ctrl+F Content is easy to digest, scannable, and doesn’t make the reader work to find the answers they want. After all, the way in which people interact with content has evolved and is still evolving. We expect answers faster than before. The ubiquity of computers, smartphones, Internet access, and social media gives us the information we want almost instantly.

That’s how I feel about web content. I want information readers need to be accessible. Ctrl+F Content should:

  • Provide quick answers
  • Be easy to scan and navigate
  • Be clear and concise
  • Utilize formatting like bullet lists and bold phrases
  • Feature short, digestible paragraphs
  • Selectively feature the most important information

(I share some tips for creating Ctrl+F Content in the next sections.)

But not all content needs to be Ctrl+F Content. There’s still space on the Internet for long-form journalism or literature, of course.

Know your reader, what they are searching for, and what they expect from your content. Then you can decide if web friendly Ctrl+F Content is right for the page you’re writing.

Should I write Ctrl+F Content?

Learn more about your target reader. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What problem does the reader want to solve?
  • What does the reader want from this content?
  • Is the reader in a hurry?
  • Does the reader want a quick answer?
  • Can I expect every reader to read the entirety of the page?

For example, a reader who types, “What is the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida?” into Google probably won’t waste time reading 1,000 words hoping to eventually find the answer. This searcher probably wants a quick answer — i.e., they want to know how long they have to file a lawsuit, which you can probably answer in two words: “four years.”

If the answer isn’t obvious right away, the reader might do a Ctrl+F search for a term like “years” and see what that returns, or might just leave and try their luck on another website.

If you are writing this page, put the answer in bold in the first paragraph (e.g., The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida is four years.).

Then create h2 subheaders anticipating follow-up questions, like exceptions to the rule, how it may be different for minors, etc. Even if the reader wanted only a two-word answer (i.e., “four years”), by asking and answering follow-up questions, the reader might keep reading. And if you answer their question and then some, the reader might see you as an expert who can help them solve their problem.

Now consider another example: this blog post. Nobody is going to type “Ctrl+F Content” into Google. And I doubt anybody is doing a Ctrl+F search for “Ctrl+F Content” when they land on this page. The target reader in this case is somebody intrigued by the term Ctrl+F Content or Ctrl+F Culture. The reader is probably willing to read the post to understand what I mean by those terms.

In other words, I am sharing what I think is a unique way of thinking about web content and its goals, and the target audience is those interested in reading about this idea. I still try to write in a digestible manner, but I do so expecting readers to read start to finish, not necessarily bounce around the page looking for quick answers to their query.

How can I write Ctrl+F Content?

Ah, the million-dollar question. The short answer? Write good content. The following three tips can help:

Tip #1: Use the inverted pyramid.

Put the most important information first. Journalists use the inverted pyramid to write news stories, but it works for other types of web writing too.

For example, is your title a question? Does it have a quick answer? Answer the question immediately, in the first sentence if possible. A reader who clicks on this content is probably expecting the answer right away. You don’t necessarily need a meandering intro with statistics or hypothetical situations. Just answer the question.

Tip #2: Use subheaders (h2s, h3s).

Use subheaders (h2s and h3s) to organize your content. Subheaders make it easier for readers to navigate the page and scan for information they need. You can even do a little keyword research (try Google, StoryBase and/or SEMrush) to identify related keywords or phrases to use as subheaders.

For example:

Title: What is the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in Florida?

You would answer the question in the first paragraph and then start using h2 subheaders to answer follow-up questions and provide additional information related to this question.

H2s:  

  • Can the statute of limitations be waived?
  • What does tolling of the statute of limitations mean?
  • What is the discovery rule?

Each provides follow-up information related to the initial query and I found them using Google and StoryBase.

Tip #3: Consider your style of writing.

One thing that allows readers to find the information they need is efficient, accessible content. Try to make your content scannable. Consider using:

  • Bullet lists
  • Tables
  • Subheaders (Pro-tip: Make them questions. Answer the question immediately in the section.)
  • Bolded terms

Also use shorter paragraphs. Limit them to 100 words. Use bullet lists or tables to break up longer thoughts. Consider the following section on the statute of limitations in Florida:

Per Florida Statute § 95.11, accident victims have four years to file a lawsuit. While four years might seem like all the time in the world, consider this:

  • Filing a claim and negotiating with an insurance company can take a long time.
  • The longer you wait to act, the more difficult it may be to secure evidence.
  • The insurance company may argue that your waiting too long suggests your injuries are unrelated to your accident.

If you too long to start, that time can pass in the blink of an eye.

Breaking it into a bullet list presents the information vertically, which is easier for readers to digest than had all the information been in a single paragraph.

Make sure you know your readers and what they want before you create your content. Allow this to inform the information you share and your style of writing. For help with your web content, give us a call: 888-521-3880.