≡ Menu

How to make (long) blog posts more readable

I love my new typewriter

A couple of weeks back, the Friend Friday topic was Blogging Reflections, and reading through people’s answers on what turned them off a blog post, length kept getting mentioned. I was surprised to hear how common a complaint this was, because I would never consider it a problem. Or to be more specific: Unnecessary length should be avoided, but length in and of itself is not a problem. Some of my most successful posts in terms of views and comments are very long, even by my own wordy standards. I strongly believe that you can take people with you through quite a lot of material, with the use of a few simple tricks.

So this is what today’s post is about: Hints and tips for how to make long posts more readable. I’m just going to launch straight into it:

Keep it concise

Like I said, it is important to avoid unnecessary length. A successful post should be concise (which is not the same as short) and that means avoiding two things:
(1) repetition – noone wants to read the same things three times, expressed in three very slightly different ways
(2) tangents – tangents can be charming and fun to read in some circumstances, but if the post is in danger of getting too long it’s best to pick a topic and stick with it.

The way I write is that I usually start off with a stream of consciousness rant about my chosen topic, and I usually end up with plenty of repetition and random tangents. And then I cut, cut, cut stuff out, and sometimes if it hurts my heart too much to just delete it, I turn the cut stuff into another post. But I’m ruthless in my editing! For example, this post on the oppressiveness of fashion was originally about three times the length, and had lots of sub-points about racism and sexism in the fashion industry, the sustainability of fast fashion and so on. But I took them all out because they were getting in the way of what I really wanted to say.

Keep it clear

People are generally much more likely to read something if it is clearly written, regardless of length. And I can guarantee noone wants to plow through a lengthy post if it’s also difficult to read. There are many rules and pointers for writing clearly out there, which I won’t go into here, but for me the single most important thing is to avoid long sentences. Long sentences are usually difficult to read and understand, particularly in English. In other languages, it possible to go on for entire paragraphs without ever placing a full stop, but in English anything longer than two lines really isn’t advisable. So keep them simple, and your readers will thank you.

Make your structure easy to follow

In my experience as a reader, I am much more likely to persist with a long post if I know from the start how it’s going to be structured. I want to know where in the text I am finding myself as I read.

One way of doing this is to follow the classic introduction – main part – conclusion structure: tell your reader what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them. This is undergrad essay 101. Obviously a blog post isn’t an essay, and tends to be much less formal/more chatty in style. Unless you’re a complete perfectionist, you’ll also be spending much less time on it. But this kind of structure can still be helpful.

In terms of the introduction, it’s important to get to the point of what your post is about fairly quickly. By all means have a chatty anecdote to kick things off (I often do this, as I find starting posts quite hard), but I’d recommend saying what your topic is in the first paragraph, or at the start of the second one.

For the conclusion, again I’m not talking about a formal ‘In conclusion, I have argued that XXXX’ but it really helps to have a summary of what’s been said or a reminder of the key points. Alternatively, I sometimes highlight my key points and conclusions in bold. That way, readers can scan over them and then decide whether they want to read the whole thing properly. Here is an example of a post that both concludes at the end and highlights key points in bold.


To keep the structure in the main part of the post clear, leave signposts around the place to let your reader know where you are. The most obvious signposts are headings, and I use these liberally, because they also break up the text (see below).

Another good way of signposting is to number the things you’re talking about. There’s a reason list posts like ‘ten things I learned at London Fashion week’ are popular, but you needn’t even go as far as numbering everything in your post. Just the odd bit of numbering works too – like I did in the first paragraph under ‘keep it concise’.

A more subtle form of signposting is via the opening words of paragraph. Each new paragraph should link to the one before it in some way, and it should be clear what that relationship is, eg. whether you are changing topic, continuing to talk about what you talked about in the previous paragraph, presenting an opposing point of view and so on. Opening phrases like ‘However’, ‘Another thing that illustrates this point’ etc. are more typical of formal writing, but come in handy in blog posts too.

Break up the text

This is probably the single most important thing. Continuous text can be really offputting and can make a post seem really long even if it actually isn’t. I therefore try to avoid paragraphs longer than 6-8 lines and I also use an arsenal of little formatting things to break up the text:
* headings
* bullet points (numbered or not)
* lines
* empty space
* bold type

A couple of things I would avoid though is to tinker with either your font or your font size. Having different types of type usually ends up just looking messy in my opinion.

I also break things up with pictures all the time. Pictures can add a lot of actual length to a post, especially if they’re big, but they are ideal for breaking up text, because they give the eye and brain a chance to deal with something other than writing. See for example this post or this one. The latter is really very long, but I think manages to still be very readable (in my opinion!).


So there you have it: keep things concise, sentences short, think about your structure and signpost it well, and break up chunks of text into smaller digestible bits, and you’re well on your way to making long posts (or any posts, really) readable, fun and informative.

What do you think? Do you use any of these things? Any other ones? Do you read long posts or do you find them too much regardless of how well formatted they are?

Picture via here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jesse.anne.o 25 October 2010, 4:54 pm

    I struggle with this when I do have to do a long post. One thing I *tried* to do was mostly get to the point of the paragraph in the first sentence.

    I realized that when there's long posts I skim and read the intro sentence for each paragraph.

    I recall this being taught to me in journalism class?

  • Between Laundry Days 25 October 2010, 5:34 pm

    This is fantastic! I don't often write long, word-heavy post, but when I do I always worry about losing my way (or my readers!). These tips are great, and there's no question that you're the queen of well-constructed long posts. 🙂

  • Sidewalk Chalk 25 October 2010, 5:37 pm

    I loved reading this. As a former journalism student/writer, I remember these tips getting employed quite a bit. You're right, they're perfect for longer blog posts…

    Sidewalk Chalk

  • Veshoevius 25 October 2010, 6:02 pm

    Great post and really like your tips! I saw those comments on FBFF too. I don't think blog posts have to be short all the time. I also write long posts when I want to develop an idea or argument a bit more and there are actually people who read to the end.

  • sacramento 25 October 2010, 7:15 pm

    I do agree completely. Long post with just writing is really offputting when you want to read many other post.Sometimes you can say things with no so many words.
    Great advise.

  • Marissa 25 October 2010, 7:46 pm

    Thank you for this! I'm one of those people that does have a problem getting through long posts. But you're right – paragraph structure goes a long way!

  • tinyjunco 25 October 2010, 11:53 pm

    nice tips! also, Don't Forget to Read if you want to improve your writing. if you run across a piece of writing that particularly appeals to you, take some time to dig into it and see what you can tease out of it about the writer's strategy and structure. does the writer utilize any of the tips in this post? what is the main thing that appeals to you about that piece (use of metaphor or story, clarity, etc.)?

    skimming has its place but it won't help you become a better writer. as Franca says, you have to go over and over your (or other's) writing in order to get the most out of it. great ideas! steph

  • Audi 26 October 2010, 12:34 am

    Great post, and excellent tips! I often worry about being too wordy, so one thing I do is to try to surround lengthy posts with shorter ones, so that people know when they see an extra long post that I really have something to say. I hate the thought of putting a lot of work into a post only to have people skim over it, but I also know from my own experience that if you read a lot of blogs there isn't always time to delve into every single post, so I definitely appreciate the ones that are short and sweet when that's what is called for. Someone who rambles on daily about what they had for lunch and the show they watched last night may have lost me by the time they get around to posting something more important.

  • Katie 26 October 2010, 1:00 am

    I'm not usually put off by the length of a blog post. In fact, I tend to prefer blogs where the posts are of a decent length – it feels as though they have more substance and are more worth the effort of sitting down and getting into the latest posts.

    Breaking things up with images is always a good idea. It's also something about blogging that's quite different from LiveJournal (where I had my first blog/journal). On LJ, it's very common to have entries that are purely text. In the non-LJ blogging world, it's much rarer to come across a blog post without an image. I think I like that – I see images or photos as a sort of reward for reading through the text. They're a break for the eyes and a little change for the brain – there's nothing not to like about that.

  • Helga! 26 October 2010, 2:00 am

    I don't mind long posts,I don't mind rambling posts-in fact,my fave blogs are just people being themselves,not following any rules.
    I can't be anything but myself,and some of my posts are quite out of control,and I know it-but I figure if readers don't like my style,fine,they can go elsewhere.I write for myself,and if anyone else enjoys my blither it's a bonus!!
    There's enough rules and regulations in life,and I can't help but rebel!!
    That said,I enjoy your style-concise,well thought out and planned.It just isn't my style!!

  • Linda 26 October 2010, 2:37 am

    Egad. Maybe I should have read this earlier. I usually try to write quick, succinct posts, but today I had a lot to say.

    The Auspicious Life

  • LyddieGal 26 October 2010, 2:55 am

    I will agree that a long, rambling post can feel very daunting. and i always try to space my text out as much as possible, because smaller blocks are just friendlier.

    Normally I have no issue with reading a long post, but I'll admit to just looking at the photos from time to time.

    Chic on the Cheap

  • Franca 26 October 2010, 8:09 am

    Thank you all!

    Helga, you're right, everyone has their own style, and that's great. eevery blog will find its niche.

    These really weren't meant to be rules to follow or word for word, just things that I found to work *if your aim is to make long writing more readable for more people*. If that's not what you want to do, I'm not criticising! It's just that lots of people were complaining about long posts and I disagree that long posts are offputting per se.

    I should maybe also say that I do a lot of written communication in my day job (I'm a government social researcher), and spend an innordinate amount of time thinking about how I can get lots of information across and pull out key points for people that are very busy and will just ignore stuff if they think it's too difficult to read. So this is where I come from, I'm a factual writer, not really a creative one.

  • Terri 27 October 2010, 2:15 am

    I'm with Katie. I'm not put off by long posts, but alas, in this twitter world, many folks are only looking at pictures.

  • Terri 27 October 2010, 2:16 am

    I'm with Katie. I'm not put off by long posts, but alas, in this twitter world, many folks are only looking at pictures.

  • Style Eyes 29 October 2010, 4:29 pm

    yes i try and use sub headings on long posts. Thanks for the tips

  • Andi B. Goode 31 October 2010, 5:32 am

    I'm a notorious skimmer. I have a very small attention span for anything on the internet (videos, posts, etc…no matter how interesting the subject is) so, as I said, I skim. I like the idea of using bold font and headings. Because this post was super easy for me to skim! So, I think these are really good tips. Of course, for a skimmer I can be awfully wordy. Haha.
    -Andi x

  • Eyeliah 7 November 2010, 12:43 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I've recently taken a turn in my posting style and this is quite helpful. I struggle with writing my thoughts in a readable and concise manner and will remember your tips. Thanks again, it is much appreciated. in answer to your questions, I like to break up text
    with pictures and keep paragraphs short. I read long posts of course when it's something that interests me, but if I get bored I will move on from it (life is too short!).