Enough With Paragraphs: Writing Consumable Content for the Wired Brain

I know. It’s a travesty that our brains have been rewired by the Internet and we can no longer process deep thought et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Let’s face it though: it’s true.

3. Spend days sticking down...

We consume information all day, every day, so when our eyes see long blocks of text in paragraphs, we “click out” whether on email, blogs, articles or websites. As we react to information overload (and why wouldn’t we with the world’s data doubling at such a rapid rate), we consume only the content that is, well, consumable.

I’m the worst, and I admit it. People will contact me and say, “I sent you an email a few days ago, and I haven’t heard back from you.” Then they go on to tell me a two-sentence summary of the 4,000 character email that they sent me. In a quite unprofessional admission: I don’t read long emails–even though I write them. This post is my path to recovery.

What in the world is Consumable Content?

  • Communication that is conversational. What do you call it when you are with someone who talks for 10 minutes without letting you get a word in edgewise? A monologue, lecture, diatribe…you get the point. Conversations are exchanges, which is why, in my opinion, text messages are better means of communicating than emails.
  • Forget the “paragraph rules.” You have permission to write two sentence paragraphs. Sometimes you need a one-sentence paragraph…don’t tell Mr. Daniels my freshman English teacher that I said that.
  • Refine the thesis. Remember the thesis sentence? What is the one thing that you want your reader to know after investing their time in your communication? Support your thesis in your communication, and don’t waste your reader’s time with content that is off-topic.
  • Use headlines. Make sure that your headlines are on point, catchy and descriptive.
  • Use sub-headlines. If your content must be longer than a few paragraphs, use sub-headlines as trailheads in your piece.
  • These bullets don’t hurt. Bullets make content scannable and provide the writer organizational structure.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand clicks. Especially when blogging, using media not only provides a visual reference to your content, it also breaks up the words on the page and invites the reader’s eye into the post.
  • Cut and repeat. When you are done writing, go back through your communication and cut unneccessary paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words. Chances are that on the first draft it is bloated.

For great content tips, check out C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley’s book Content Rules–Even for veteran writers, it has good tips about creating online consumable content. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this gem. Amazon Associates links.

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the Chief Marketing Officer at Back Porch Vista. Formerly, he was the president of Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd is an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at jeremyfloyd.com and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.