Catch ‘em while you can: Top online writing tips


As we blogged recently, skimming is the new reading.  Now, we offer top tips for how to write for those who scan the text on their screens.

Whether you’re drafting a cover letter, a note to get an informational interview — or anything you want to someone to actually read — keep these tips top-of-mind.

  • Put your most important info at the beginning of your letter.   We know people read less as they scroll down their screen.  So catch them while you can.

Ask yourself, “What does my reader really care about? What’s of most interest to them?”  Answer those questions first.

  • Start every sentence with your key info. Do not back into your point.

Remember, eye-tracking studies show people often don’t read to the end of a line.    Ask yourself, “What’s the most important point that I want to make in this sentence?”  Open with that.

  • Keep it short.  Short sentences, short paragraphs.  Try to stick to one idea per sentence.  White space is good.  People are turned off by big blocks of text.
  • Better bullet it, than bury it.  If you have a lot to say, make a bulleted list so people can read your points fast, and easily.
  • Use plain language.   Only use jargon if your reader uses the same as part of their every-day.   If your reader doesn’t understand what you are saying, they won’t hang around to figure it out.
  • Do all the work for your reader.   Don’t assume your readers will “figure it out” for themselves.  Studies tell us readers will  not stop and ponder.

If you are changing careers, show how your past experience works for the new job.  Think like a hiring manager,  ask yourself, “How is this candidate meeting my specific needs.”

  • Do the “what did I say?” test:  Have someone read what you wrote, in real time.  In other words, fast!  Then ask them what they can recall from what they read. If they can’t remember your top two points, you likely need re-write your text to make it clearer, and shorter.

People generally remember only 10% of what they read.  That’s the tried-and-tested finding of  the famous Dale’s Cone of Experience.   So don’t expect recall of more than few points.

  • After you write it, edit, edit, edit.  As the actress Louise Brooks famously said, “writing is 1 % inspiration, 99 % elimination.”

The above is the advice we give our candidates.   We know it works.  We coach candidates for full-time jobs, contracts, and temporary placements .

Through Bagg Professional, Bagg Technology Resources (BTR), Bagg Managed Resources, Bagg @ Your Service, and Turn Key Staffing we place people in just about every industry.  And we place a lot of people!

Be we can’t sugarcoat this — it is much harder to write shorter than longer.  Still, it’s better to spend that time than to waste all your time writing something that won’t get read.



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