In 1997, Jakob Nielsen wrote How Users Read on the Web. His organization conducted a formal study of usability and found:
- Concise text (half the words) is 58% more readable than rambling text.
- Scannable text (bullets) is 47% more readable than wall of text.
- Neutral language (facts) is 27% more readable than marketese.
Nielsen added specific recommendations:
- Mark keywords
- Use descriptive headings (not puns or references)
- Use bullets
- Limit one paragraph to one idea
- Start with the conclusion
- Halve the wordcount
Maintaining high information density is hard. You need to edit and cut the dead text. It takes up your time, but it saves readers time; it is respectful.
I think that Jakob Nielsen and Jeff Atwood overuse bolding. Nevertheless, they remain widely read because their postings are clear and readable. I can see at a glance their topics, their reasoning, and their conclusions.
Being positive and writing empty boasts is different. Don’t blather about awesomeness, or people will ignore even the facts.
Inverted pyramid style
- Newspaper stories start with the most important fact and work down.
- Essays start with the thesis and then prove it.
- Reports start with an executive summary.