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Friday, July 22 2005
 Beyond words, there is another aspect to text that can make it easy or difficult for your prospects to read. 

It's the formatting. 

The more inviting your text appears to the eye, the better the chances are that it'll actually be read. 

Here are a few ideas that will make an immediate impact on how your text appears to your readers. 

    • Leave plenty of white space. 

      You've probably heard this before, but do you know WHY it's so important? 

      I know you want to cram as much as possible onto a page, but if you're not careful, you can turn your prospects off. 

      Large blocks of text can seem intimidating and overwhelming. They can actually create resistance to reading more. Breaking up the text makes it appear friendlier and less formidable, therefore increasing the chances that your prospects will read what you want them to read. The space between text is just as important as the text itself. Assuming your prospects are in a hurry, as most people are, it's easier for them to skim the page if it's appealing to the eye. 

      If you look at direct mailing pieces from major companies such as Reader's Digest, Time Life, and AARP, you'll see how they spread a letter out over several pages. They could fit it into a much smaller space and save money by using less paper, but they do it in a way that creates lots of white space - savvy marketers indeed! 

    • Indent the first line of each paragraph. 

      Indent the first line of each paragraph between 5-10 spaces. Yes, I know it may seem old-fashioned. Many years ago it became common to line all text up on the left side of the page. It definitely looks cleaner and tidier. But that's not your primary goal. Your primary goal is to make sure your prospects read your material. 

      The indented spaces create a launching ramp that allows your eyes to find a smooth way into the text. They also create visual variety, which keeps your readers interested. 

      You'll see that I have not taken my own advice in this article: that's because my email distribution system doesn't allow it (or maybe they do and I just haven't figured it out yet!) Sometimes you just have to go with what's possible. 

  1. Don't justify the right margin. 

    Your right margin is justified when the end of each line is lined up neatly under the one above it, so that the right edge of the text looks straight. 

    Let's see how that happens. In order to have everything exactly lined up, your computer varies the length of the spaces between words. That means that as you read, your eye constantly has to adjust as it reads across each line. Rather than an uninterrupted flow, it's like hitting speed bumps. You may not notice it consciously, but it's happening. 

    Do you ever notice how a newspaper column often has a line or two with large spaces between words? That's when they are justifying the right margin and stretching the text to fill out the whole line. Next time you notice this, watch how it stops the flow of your reading. 

Copyright 2005 Maggie Dennison

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