Keep Audience

Visual Appeal: Tips to Help Draw Your Readers in and Keep Them Reading

Linda Mulcahy
January 9, 2019

A good copywriter uses words to inspire, persuade, and sell. But words alone aren’t enough. Smart copywriters add elements of visual appeal to invite readers, help them understand the message, and keep them engaged with the copy. 

If you think about your own online reading habits, you’ll probably admit that you’re a scanner and a skimmer. We all are. If we’re looking for something specific, we quickly scan a page until we either find the information or determine we won’t find it there and move onto another page. If we’re drawn in by a headline or a graphic, we quickly scan a few words or sentences to see if it’s worth staying there for more.

We’re an impatient and distracted people. We need help.

Thankfully, help is here. Copywriters can use these tips to create visually appealing pieces that invite readers to keep reading (or, okay, scanning and skimming).

Tips to Create Visual Appeal

  1. Create bulleted and/or numbered lists. Your reader is probably preoccupied, pressed for time, and annoyed by fluff. Respect that. Give him a list to help him scan the highlights.  
  2. Use boldface for keywords and phrases. Quickly draw attention to the most important phrases by using boldface, italics, or maybe even a different color. Use this tactic sparingly, though.
  3. Use descriptive headings and subheadings. Set your headings in a larger font than the body text and separate it slightly from the rest of the copy. This will help your reader see the organization of the page and either prepare to read it all or scan for what he finds most important.
  4. Keep paragraphs short. Even the most interested reader will move past a densely packed wall of text. Two or three sentences is enough for most paragraphs. Just one sentence is sometimes best.    
  5. Leave lots of white space. Let readers’ eyes relax and their minds focus as they read your copy. Too much on one screen is mentally cluttering and creates a sense of anxiety.
  6. Place the best, most compelling copy above the fold. Nielsen Norman Group reports that 80 percent of readers’ attention is spent above the fold. Don’t assume your audience will scroll down to keep reading.
  7. Lead with the most important* info*. Similarly, put the most important information at the beginning of sentences and paragraphs. Don’t make readers mentally diagram your sentences to figure out what you’re trying to say.
  8. Use pull quotes. Strategically place a short but significant excerpt from your copy on the page. This drives attention to a key idea and gives visual priority to that point.
  9. Include graphics when they help. Some concepts are made clearer through illustrations, graphs, photos, and charts. Use them when they help, but avoid them if they don’t clearly support the main idea presented in the copy.
  10. Choose your font wisely. Use a common font that’s easy on the eyes. And stick with just one or two in a single piece of copy. More than that can look messy and unintentional.
  11. Be consistent with fonts. Proofread to make sure typefaces and headline sizes are consistent throughout the copy.
  12. Optimize for mobile devices. If your copy is digital, make sure people can read it easily no matter what they’re using. At least 57 percent of internet traffic comes from smartphones and tablets, not desktops and laptops, so your copy needs to look great on smaller screens.
  13. Pay attention to color. While this is more of a designer’s concern, you can verify that the color schemes are pleasant and appropriate for your message.
  14. Use simple language. If a reader glances at your page and sees a lot of unfamiliar jargon, he will move on. Use simple and clear words.

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