After more than 20 years teaching high school students with reading and math difficulties, I thought I knew all the tricks for helping people with various reading problems, including dyslexia decipher printed text. Now that I have migrated completely to electronic media for my writing, I have been forced to reconsider how to present computerized written material so people with reading difficulties can enjoy it. The strategies are different, but definitely not as different as you might suspect! Every experienced writer can quickly incorporate these strategies into her blog.
The Key is Visual Simplification
While reading printed material, a variety of simple strategies can simplify the written content. From color overlays to slotted note cards showing only one line at a time, these tricks assist the eyes as they decipher the printed word. But how can bloggers translate these tricks to our blogs?
If you want the almost 20 percent of the U.S. population with reading problems to enjoy your blog, it is essential to incorporate the following tips. You could lose two readers out of every ten by not utilizing a few simple strategies.
Make Paragraphs Short
Keep each paragraph short and sweet. Three to five sentences detailing the main idea are sufficient. Not only readers with dyslexia will appreciate this, so will all the hurried people trying to quickly pick out the essential information. Keep sentences brief, and avoid being wordy. Compare this paragraph with my intro; the intro really is too wordy!
Make sure your headings summarize the main point of each paragraph. This allows readers to quickly identify the paragraphs they will scrutinize and the ones they will skim. That long page of tangled words is now broken into short paragraphs, each one neatly introduced.
Lists Are Useful
When appropriate, use lists. A list is much easier to decipher than a long-winded paragraph. The key is to make the information easily accessible and visually simple. A whole page of continuous text becomes a maze for people with reading difficulties. Lists and short paragraphs help the eyes stay on the line.
Easy On the Eyes Contrast
Remember the color overlays I mentioned? They lessen the contrast between words and background, making it easier for the eyes to look at the page. This is simple to translate to electronic text. Set the background color to an off white. Keep the text dark gray, rather than black. This lessens the sharp contrast that plays tricks on the eyes.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
This is especially true in our hurried world. Plus, it makes your blog much more interesting. Even simplified text can get a bit boring and tedious. Liven up your blog with appropriate pictures. They help immensely with how-to blogs and add much appreciated visual richness to all blogs. Not just any old pretty picture though! Make the picture add depth to your written words.
Use the Right Font
If you have an older book lying around, take a look at the font. It is something most readers don’t even notice, but certain fonts used in books and computer-generated text have unnecessary little curlicues. These are called serif fonts. Format your blog using sans serif fonts. This means without those little extra hooks on the letters.
Keeping More Readers
If you follow these basic strategies, you’ll gain more loyal readers. You will find that everyone appreciates your blog’s new look. It is easy to view, simple to navigate, and enhanced with pictures. Don’t worry; you have not sacrificed quality content. You have made it universally accessible!