Capturing Skim Readers

    March 20, 2007

I’m busy, you’re busy.

So are the folks that are reading your words.

Whether you write white papers, articles or blog entries, it is important to meet the needs of the skimmer.

What can I do?

In one of my recent teleclasses, the topic of engaging readers came up. One of the students said, “You are really making me work to go back through the white paper and reexamine and reassess what each section is actually doing and how the headings correlate to the information in the content!”

One important way to get your readers to actually move through your document is to use headers (also known as section titles or subheads).

Translating boring words into engaging headlines

Let’s assume you were writing a white paper about workplace accountability.

What follows are some boring and exciting ways to write section headers to pull in the skim reader:

  • The Problem: Poor Accountability” could be translated into “Destination ‘Acceptable Failure’ by Way of Aimless Goals” or “The Challenges of Poor Workforce Accountability”
  • The Solution” could be restated “Steps to Achieving Personal Accountability
  • An Example” could be translated into “Accountability in Action: Corporate Example

The trick here is to focus on descriptive words that create interest to the skim reader.

It is often helpful to create mental images, like a place named “Acceptable Failure.”

Spend time creating section headers that encourage your readers stay with your piece.

Ultimately those words will actually see the reflection of someone else’s eyes.

How do you satisfy the skimmer? Do you have any other ideas?