Reading through verbose introductory text to get to the point is painful and wastes time and cognitive energy. Poorly structured content can dishearten your readers and create barriers to information. The simplest fix is to put the most important messages at the top of the article and start with the conclusion.
You only have to read a news article, online or offline, to see this approach in action every day. Journalists have long relied on this method* of putting the most meaningful facts and details at the start, only expanding upon the content and details as the article goes on, building the story for the reader.
Such a structure helps people decide if they need to read your entire article. They can stop reading at any point and still come away with the main messages.
Front-load your comms
Here’s a few dos and don’ts to help you avoid writing off-putting dense prose and get you started on making your content a lot more readable and useful:
Do: Start with the basics of ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’.
Don’t: Assume people will read your full article – get the important stuff out there early on.
Do: Save the ‘why’, the reasons and context behind the news, for towards the end and build your story with more background and history later on.
Don’t: Overload the start of your article with the least important information.
Do: Use lots of sub-headings to break up your content and highlight new topics.
People prefer to scan-read articles online, so it’s important to grab attention early on. Get to the point immediately and inform people of what’s going on. Your readers shouldn’t have to study the article to find the important stuff.
If you’re involving more contributors with your intranet, consider booking our in-house ‘writing for the intranet‘ workshop. People want to be competent and confident when publishing.
*This is also known as the ‘inverted pyramid’, as the information gets less important towards the end of the article – like an upside down pyramid.
News articles, such as this example, front-load the page with the ‘what’ and ‘who’ details, allowing you to stop reading as soon as you feel you’ve learnt enough.
This is one of a series of short articles about intranet content practices.
Joanne Treverton, our comms and content workshop leader
Previously the award winning intranet manager for the RSPB, Joanne knows the intricacies of online communication and digital content.
With 8+ years’ of experience in copywriting, internal communications, intranet management and digital marketing at Europe’s largest nature conservation charity, the RSPB, Jo finds that the best intranets are based around the users’ needs. Writing, creating, and editing content requires skill and patience to get right, but is something that anyone can learn to improve their online writing.