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Styling Content for Readability Using Headings and Lists

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Now that you know how to use the WordPress 4.7 text editor and how you can paste text in from other software, I want to talk a bit about text markup for readability. What I mean by markup is adding styling so paragraphs, lists, headings and that kind of thing.

Make Your Content Understood at a Glance

People just don’t tend to read long blocks of text on web pages or it’s not pleasant to read long blocks of text on web pages. So if you want people to read your content you want to make it easy to skim so they can find what they’re interested in.

Use Headings to Outline Content

The way you make your text easy to skim or scan is by first breaking up your text with headings. We’ll talk about the role of headings in SEO in a minute but just in terms of scanning you want to create a hierarchy with headings and then sub headings. So, below your h2s you could use h3s and so on. But don’t overdo it as this can make your text harder to scan for the reader.

Use Lists for Quick Comprehension

Also, if you’ve got some kind of itemization of information then you turn that into lists. For example, you might be able to say take these three short sentences and turn them into a list. This information might be better as list items for quick comprehension.

You can make them into a list to summarize the information rather than writing it out in a full paragraph. It’s good to look for places where you can take a paragraph and turned the information into a bolded list. It’s especially useful when you are numerating something.

Highlight Important Words or Phrases

Once we have headings, lists and some paragraph text, then what you want to do is look for important words or phrases to highlight. You can highlight them either with bold text or with italic text. The point of this is that you’re taking a specific words and phrases that are key elements of the paragraph and you are highlighting them.

Both bold text and italicized text do the same thing, they both emphasize the text and draw people’s attention to the text. And even more to the point, as we’ll see in the minute, they help you with search engine optimization.

I strongly recommend that for readability you bold the main point of a sentence or the main word of a sentence. Or italicize a main phrase. It doesn’t really matter which one you’re doing. Most paragraphs should have at least something either bolded or italicized so that the person skimming it can take the title and the italicized words and understand what’s going on.

Using Internal Links in Your Text

I want to touch on using links in your text because there’s going to be lots of times when you’re also going to want to link off to something. You want to link to content within your own site. So, to link from one page to another on your website, you’ll select a piece of text that essentially tells them what the link is about or what the page is about. Then come up over here to this insert edit link. There are two ways to add in a link.

Search for Link Content In Edit Link

You can search for a page that has something to do with this. For example, SEO text and it brings back this page as having something to do with SEO text. And so you can click that and it will add the link. You have some link options to choose from as well.

Locate Page on Your Site and Copy Link

But you don’t have to use that search feature in the edit link area. You can just go select a page on your site that you want to link to. Just copy that link and paste it in. I’ll choose this text “what I’m going to show you is a little different”, hit the link icon.

Link Opens in New Tab or Same Tab

You have the choice to either open this page in a new tab or open it in the same tab. If you don’t check this button, the end user can always right click on this and say open link in new tab. It’s what people do all the time so it’s considered better practice not automatically link them off to a new tab. But that’s up to you. There are plenty times I want people to be able to walk right back to this page and so I do say open up a new tab.

That’s how you create a link. And when we talk about developing your on page SEO, you’ll see that you want to aim for at least three links in the top 550 words that link off to other pages on your site. Knowing how to create and use links is important.

Styling Content Rules

I have some rules to live by on this topic of styling content for readability.

  • Never use headings for styling
  • Minimize inline styles
  • Use bold and italics to highlight important words/phrases
  • Don’t “shout” with excessive use of bold
  • No Long Blocks of Uninterrupted Text

Never Use Headings for Styling

Headings are meant to convey meaning not for making text bigger. New website owners do this all the time but I don’t want you to do it. Never use headings for styling. If you want text to be bigger really think about whether or not that’s really important.

You can get a plugin that will let you style the size of the text without changing it into a heading. Generally speaking, I think it’s a very bad idea but there are times when it is useful. That’s especially true if you’re creating a call to action or working on a landing page where the heading doesn’t convey meaning, it conveys importance. But don’t break this rule on a regular page. Use headings to convey meaning and give a summary of what is to come.

Minimize Inline Styles

Secondly, you want to minimize inline styles. An inline style is where you over ridden the existing style. For example, if I select this text and change its color making it red that is an inline style. If there is some reason that you want text to be emphasized with a different color then you should give that text a class and come up with the style for that class and do it via CSS.

I know that what I just said all sounds like mumbo jumbo to some folks at the moment but it won’t be mumbo jumbo by the time we’re done creating this small business/professional services website.

There is a good reason you don’t want to use inline styles. Let’s say you’ve got a hundred pages and you made all your favorite words a perfect shade of purple as you created content. Well, later in your site’s life you may decide to change your website colors. At that point there is no way to fix all those purple colors except by going into each and every page that has those colors and clearing the formatting on them.

Changing the inline styles on an established website you’ve had going for a couple years can take forever. I have had clients, on numerous occasions, who built their website and used inline styles over and over and over again. They have later spent many, many hours undoing that styling.

It may not seem like it now but, believe it or not, chances are you’re going to want to change your color scheme in another two years or year and a half. Something will strike your fancy and you’re going to want to change things up. In line styles prevent you from doing that.

Useful Inline Styles

The only inline styles I recommend you use are italics and bolds and sometimes strike through when, obviously, there’s a rationale for it right. Sometimes a line center.

But never use align justify where it where it evens out this this edge here. You don’t want to use justify because it’s so destructive to mobile views. The fact that WordPress has taken the justify button off the toolbar should tell you something. Anyway, by and large, the only inline styles you should ever employ are bold and italic.

Don’t Shout with Excessive Use of Bold

Also, don’t shout in your text. If everything is bold then nothing is bold. I had one member who thought every single word she wrote was important and and she couldn’t distinguish one good word from another. So she wrote everything in bold like this and she thought that was good. I could never break her of this awful habit of bolding everything.

You can’t bold anything if you’re bolding everything. It’s the equivalent of shouting if everything is bolded. You lose your chance to emphasize or highlight the really important points in your text.

No Long Blocks of Uninterrupted Text

And then finally, don’t have long blocks of uninterrupted text. Make sure that every two or three paragraphs you’ve got another heading – where it makes sense, of course. Also make sure that every paragraph is not more than two or three sentences long. You don’t want to have long uninterrupted blocks of text.

And that concludes styling content for readability and lists.

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