This post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke
You’ve finished your post, and you breathe a sigh of relief. After a quick edit you publish it to your blog, and wait for the comments, tweets, shares, or any sort of feedback.
But once again, you get nothing. There may as well be no-one reading it.
So what’s the problem? It could be that your writing isn’t as strong as it needs to be. But there’s also a very good chance the problem isn’t your writing.
It’s your formatting.
Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of different blog posts, and most of them were fairly well written. But some were really let down by poor post formatting: the post just didn’t look good.
If you’re not convinced that formatting matters, compare this screenshot…
… to this one.
These are two versions of my post Six Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment (and Get More Done). They both have exactly the same text. But I know which one I’d rather read.
Your readers are busy. They’re distracted. They want an easy, engaging read – not a daunting wall of text.
So what’s stopping you from getting the formatting right? Maybe one of these sounds like you:
- You haven’t really thought about it before. You’re a writer, not a designer, and it never occurred to you to bother with formatting.
- You’ve got a vague idea that formatting matters, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it. What if you make your post look worse rather than better?
- You haven’t figured out how to use the formatting features built into WordPress.
I’m going to take you through four key formatting features you can use straight away to make your posts more readable. And don’t worry. I’m definitely a words person and even I can manage these.
I’ll also be showing you how easy it is to format text using the WordPress editor. Even if you’re not using WordPress, most blogging platforms have similar features.
(As you read this, you might want to have a draft post or old post ready for editing in a different tab so you can try out the different features.)
#1: Short Paragraphs
Plenty of white space helps make your post readable. White space is all the stuff around the words. If you have short paragraphs (or lists, which we’ll come to later), you’ll already have extra space where your words can breathe.
Adding extra paragraphs is super easy. Just position the cursor wherever you want a new paragraph and hit Enter:
There’s no absolute rule on how long is too long for a paragraph. But if it goes over four or five lines, you may want to consider splitting it.
Tip: If you’re used to more formal writing (perhaps academic or business writing), having short paragraphs may seem odd. If that’s the case, you might want to read How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed).
I like to think of subheadings as signposts that help orient readers within my post. Almost any post can be broken up into subsections, and each one should have a clear (and hopefully enticing) subheading.
While it helps readers who are skimming for information, it’s also useful for readers who are reading your entire post. Subheadings prevent them from feeling lost or confused along the way.
I like to use Title Case (capitalizing all major words) for my subheadings, but you might prefer to capitalize only the first word of the subheading. Just make sure you’re consistent.
To create a subheading in WordPress:
- Type your subheading on its own line wherever you want it in your post.
- Click on the subheading and select “Header 2” from the “Paragraph” dropdown.
Tip: When you’re planning your post, think about the subsections and potential subheadings you want to use. This will help you create a good structure right from the start.
#3: Bold Text
Bold text is a great way to call attention to a key point or important sentence. But it’s easy to overuse, and I suggest bolding only one or two sentences per subsection (depending how long your subsections are).
Some bloggers use coloured text instead of bold text. This can work if it fits with your branding, but it can also look a bit amateurish and distracting.
To create bold text in WordPress:
- Highlight the sentence you want to bold.
- Click on the “B” in the WordPress editor.
Tip: Try to avoid bolding only one or two words – it can make your text look choppy. I also tend to bold only the first sentence of a paragraph. Having a bold sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph can also look a bit odd.
#4: Lists, and Using Bullet Points
Sometimes it’s easiest to write a list as a regular sentence. For instance, I might write:
In this post, we’ll take a look at paragraphs, subheadings, bold text, and lists.
But if each item on your list is more than a word or two, it will be easier for readers to take in if you lay them out using bullet points.
In this post, we’ll take a look at:
- Paragraphs – keeping them short
- Subheadings – helping your reader navigate your post
- Bold text – pulling out key points
- Lists – using bullet points
To create a list in WordPress:
- Set out your text as a list, with each item on a different line:
- Highlight the entire list and click the “Unordered List” icon, which looks like this:
Tip: This method creates an unordered list with bullet points. If you want to number each item on your list, use the “Ordered List” icon (next to the “Unordered List” icon). A numbered list will automatically renumber your items as you add new ones – even if you add them to the middle of your list.
I’m sure you’ve already seen these formatting features in use, and have tried using some of them yourself. Hopefully you’ll feel a lot more confident about using them now to make your posts more readable.
Here’s a mini-challenge for you: look back at your three most recent posts, or perhaps your three most popular ones. Try using at least two of my suggestions to improve the formatting, and let us know how you got on.
These are basic tips but well worth restating. Making your posts more readable can’t hurt!
Agree with you.These are very basic yet important tips. These type of tips always comes in handy when you tend to get over-creative. Thanks! Great post though Ali.
Thanks both! Yes, I was aiming to make this post very beginner friendly — I think it’s advice that many of us have been following for a long time, and which we don’t always think to repeat to newer bloggers!
For SEO it’s also important to use those formating tools right – your main heading should be in number 1 and only that main title heading should use the number 1. Then cascading down your text, the rest of your headings should follow in sequence – next heading number 2, next number 3 – at 4 you can stop and keep using 4.
I didn’t realize that these separate headings should be used throughout the article. I’ve always just used H2 for all of my headings. I am definitely going to experiment with this on my blog today.
Thanks for the additions, @psychickathleen:disqus: I should have probably gone into more detail in the post.
I should just make it clear for other commenters that of course you can use more than one H2 (or H3, or H4) in your post, but you should “nest” them correctly.
So if you have three key points in your post and three subheadings, you’d have them all as H2 headings.
If you have three key points and each one has two subsections, your subheadings would be structured like this:
H2 heading — key point 1
H3 heading — subsection
H3 heading — subsection
H2 heading — key point 2
H3 heading — subsection
H3 heading — subsection
… and so on.
Got it! Thank you!
always use only one time h1 tag in website’s first page
Even skimming through this (we all do it, don’t we?), I took in more content than if there were block paragraphs. I didn’t even read the first example content because my brain went “you don’t have time for this!”
I still want to see good writing. Poor grammar affects expertise; small mistakes show carelessness. But formatting is vital for Google, and to attract the reader who only has a few minutes to decide whether they want to learn more from the writer.
Hey, skim away, I don’t mind! :-)
I absolutely agree with you about good writing — that matters a huge amount too, and just a few tiny mistakes can be offputting for readers. (After all, if you can’t get the little things right, they won’t know if they can trust your expertise.) But even beautifully written posts need to be well formatted!
Great tips and I especially love the shorter paragraph tips. I love breaking up my paragraphs and usually won’t put more than 3 sentences in one paragraph.
I personally won’t read a blog post if they make their paragraphs too long. Personally, I am not a fan of long paragraphs with tons of text.
Headings are a must, especially, since most people only skim a blog post. I know that I’ll always skim a post before I decide if I am going to take the time to read it. Even then I probably won’t read the entire post.
It takes time to learn how to format our blog posts. However when you start implementing these tips, you’ll start to notice that your page rankings will increase gradually.
Thanks for sharing these tips, I have no doubt that they will help bloggers improve their blog post formatting.
Have a great day :)
Thanks, Susan! I think keeping paragraphs to 3 sentences max is a great idea. Like you, I tend to skim posts too — and if a post is full of long paragraphs and no subheadings, I won’t do more than glance at it before I move on to something that looks more readable!
Great article. Thank you so much for sharing such great tips with us to help us grow our business.
Wonderful tips on creating the content more readable for users. I also love to use header tags, Use bullets to describe some important points. I think these simple tweaks can make the content more readable. Thanks for sharing these great tips here.
Have a great day :)
Sounds like you’re already doing a great job with your formatting, Vishwajeet — keep it up. :-) Thanks for the lovely comment!
Thanks, Ali, for sharing these great tips. They are so valuable. The writing is so important, but presenting it in an easy-to-read format really does make all the difference in the world! Great post!
Good advice Ali. So much of good formatting is simple. change things up. I like adding bold text, bullet points, italics, and sometimes I center a sentence or 2 as well. Of course short paragraphs are the way to go.No better way to make an impact by keeping prying eyes glued to your post, a line at a time. Almost like they are following the post typewriter style.
Thanks Ryan! Yes, it’s all very simple and easy to do — I think newer bloggers don’t always realise just how much formatting matters though.
Thank you Darren and Ali for sharing this precious advice. I really got what i wanted as i started blogging i was looking for something that will make my blogging posts more readable and i did not knew what to exactly change in my post to make it more beautiful and readable. I really appreciate that!
Ali, thanks for this post. I will now add it to the e-readings list for my social media marketing students learning to blog.
this is great! Pleas keep them coming. im new to this and i love the simplicity of the article. straight forward
I love this. Yoast SEO has helped me out with these formatting methods! ^_^
Some simple tips which I know will have a great visual impact on my blog! Great stuff! 😀
Very insightful stuff that is helpful for bloggers like mine and Yoast SEo tool has been really helpful to me , thank you so much for sharing such great tips
Headings are one of my favourite ways to break up walls of text!
That, and adding loads of relevant images ;)
The tips given in this post are very important. if we include all these in our article then our article looks alike rich article and it draws attention of reader.
These are the basics to format a post.
Thanks to Yoast SEO that provides the details to format an article in a better way.
How can increase letter font size in paragraph writting
I’m raising my hands up cause I am definitely guilty of not giving a thought about format since I am more focused on writing. I’ll definitely give these a try.
Thank you for sharing Ali!
Thank for you exploring your knowledge which is helps to everyone. You blog is really good understanding for every user .actually seo people are also using those techniques. But is great helpful for digital marketers
Thanks for this tips. I always use short paragraph and subheading but I think improvement with bold text and list is good. Especially for skimmer reader to check relevant point for their search.
Thanks for sharing information about wordpress format.
very good tricks about wordpress.
Hey Ali Luke!
I’ve learned a lot of new things here. Enjoyed reading this.
Thanks so much for this easy and simple explanation of all the essential suggestions for writing an article on WordPress.
Anyways, if you have another formatting Tips, I would love to hear them.
Nice Article .
Hello Ali ,
Thank you for sharing this blog, its a very easy and simple explanation of how to post an article on word press site.
Wonderful Tips for the user. Thanks for Sharing Valuable tips….
Hey Ali, thanks for the great suggestions. With much more traffic coming from mobile devices formatting is more important than ever!