I’ll let you in on a little secret: formatting your content is just as important as the substance of your content. It’s something that generally only comes to mind as an afterthought, but the format of your content can have a significant impact on how well people read, respond, and retain what you have to say.
Want to make your formatting better? Your readers will thank you.
It’s All About Usability
We’ve all heard by now that we should never write in ALL CAPS beyond a few words at a time for emphasis. It’s considered “shouting” and a breach of netiquette, and writing in all upper-case letters is also terrible from a usability standpoint.
Writing solely in upper-case reduces the reader’s speed by thirteen percent (13%), because the reader has to take time to distinguish the different characters and then combine them into a word. Further, because all the letters are larger, each letter also takes a fraction longer to see.
Just like letter case impacts reading speed, so does the way you format your text. Text formatting also has an effect on how much of your information the reader will retain.
Formatting includes font type, size, and spacing. Let’s take a look at each.
What Font Type Should I Use?
The answer to this question is subjective and to a large degree depends on your website design, industry standards, and ultimately the type of content you are presenting.
Your content portion should be in serif fonts such as Times New Roman, while your attention and guidepost information (such as titles, subtitles, captions, etc.) should be in a sans serif font like Arial.
What Font Size Should I Use?
In general you should not use anything smaller than a 12-point font, and should allow readers to manually increase the size of a page’s text. The reason for this is because different operating systems display text at different resolution so no matter what size you choose, it will difficult to enforce it so that everyone sees the text in the same way.
According to studies, 12-point Times New Roman and 10-point Arial result in the fastest reading speeds, while both fonts in 12-point result in the most legible text and best overall reading experience for the audience.
What Font Spacing Should I Use?
The spacing you use should vary depending on the letter case you are using as well as the alignment you use for your paragraphs. As I mentioned before, when you type in all upper-case it becomes substantially harder to read because all letters start looking alike. To alleviate this (if you must use all caps), you can increase the spacing between the letters of the word.
Make Your Content Look Better
It’s surprising how many people fail to recognize the importance of formatting as a component of good blogging and content presentation. You painstakingly format your resume when looking for a job, or a dissertation for your professors before you present, right?
So why not take the time to format your online content?