Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of papers, articles, columns, and blogs. And one thing I’ve become well aware of is that you need to consider your medium before you begin writing.
What’s a medium and why does it matter?
A medium is the platform you use to deliver your message, e.g., newspaper, blog, research paper.
Some people write just to write and never consider how to format their work to fit the medium.
For example, in my 16-17 years of schooling, I wrote dozens of research papers and was taught to write those papers in the five-paragraph, eight-sentences-per-paragraph model. And while that works in some instances, contorting your work to fit this model doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need more paragraphs and sentences, sometimes fewer. This may be true when writing a legal document or an article for a website or newspaper.
For example, legal documents often have long sentences or paragraphs because they often contain a lot of very dense information. And those reading these documents often want or need the detailed legal discussion. This isn’t a universal truth, but it’s generally accepted that legal papers may contain longer, more complex sentences and paragraphs.
But website content may contain paragraphs with three to five sentences (sometimes fewer) to keep content digestible.
And if you’ve ever written (or read) an article in a newspaper, you’ll know that paragraphs are very short. Sometimes they might only be two sentences, maybe even one. If you make the paragraphs any longer, because you deliver the content in skinny columns, a normal paragraph could be a dozen lines long, which can be difficult to read.
So what should I do?
When you sit down to write, think about the medium. If you are writing a legal article or blog for a website, your audience will read it on a computer or smartphone. If you saw the following pages, which would you be more likely to read?
Chances are you’d rather read the example on the left because the smaller paragraphs make the content easier to digest.
This is even more noticeable in a newspaper. Next time you read a newspaper, compare the paragraph lengths. Ask yourself if longer paragraphs are more difficult to get through than shorter ones.
I’m not saying that no one will read your pieces if you use longer paragraphs and longer sentences, but I am saying that your readers will thank you if your content fits the medium. If you’re writing website content, that usually means making it more digestible.
Check out last week’s post on misspelled and misused words and phrases. Next week, come back for a discussion of how reading can improve your writing.
And as always, if you need help with content writing, give us a call: 888-521-3880.