I recently took a CLE (continuing legal education) class to fulfill my state bar requirements. I decided on a class that sounded like it could help me with the course I teach online (Foundations Capstone). The CLE was titled "Tools to Make Your Writing Clearer and More Persuasive".
Ironically, this class taught me how to be a better online instructor, and I would like to share a brief overview of it with you.
I. Purpose of the class: the way people "read" has changed therefore, we must structure our writing style to adapt to these changes.
II. Reason for their claim - studies have shown:
- Technology has dramatically changed our reading environment.
- The new reading environment is "rewiring" our brains and changing the way we read.
- Our eyes work harder to read a screen then paper therefore, our eyes make "adjustments" to this fatiguing environment.
- The best tools for adapting to the "rewired" reader come from research on web usability.
- Web Usability - study of how to make web sites easy to read.
III. Specific facts from the research:
- Screen readers do not read, but they skim in a "F-shaped" pattern. Here is a picture to illustrate this point.
- Screen readers do not read in the order we expect them to read. Their eyes jump around and do not read across each line (linear) as they do for paper reading.
- Screen readers are impatient and want information quickly.
- Screen readers do not want to think to get information. It is not that readers are unintelligent, but they are busy and impatient.
IV. Key to adapting our presentation of information: Usability tools (Google and Amazon have perfected their sites from these studies)
- Enable skimming by doing the following: Headings that summarize, bullet points, numbered lists, outlines
- *Readers mainly read the first sentence of a paragraph
- Omit needless words - when people add less words, readers actually read more (Twitter an example of perfecting this)
- Make it simple - example of Google home page = less than 25 words on the page
- Use WHITE space - blank part of a page
- Put the MOST important content in the top left of the page because of the "F-shaped" pattern of web reading
Hopefully, I have put into practice what I have learned from this class into this discussion post. This has changed the way I want to "present" information to my students knowing how they are likely to read the information that I have given them.
I hope this has helped any of you.
source: "10 Tools to Making Your Writing Clearer & More Persuasive", Texas Bar CLE webcast, Kevin Dubose and Robert Dubose