Is your content the stuff of nightmares? Here’s how to tell.

I’m going to get straight to the point: Content is more than just words swimming around on a screen or page. At the risk of sounding like some crazed romantic, content is “a many splendored thing” and how you work it, will determine if your date with Learning is going to succeed or headed straight to hell.

I used to think not everyone has the ability to gauge if a piece of content is “balanced” – i.e., with the right mix of words and images, where the cadence of the writer’s voice is neither stilted nor bordering on rambling, where the paragraphs aren’t too long, and the fonts are just right.

But these days, with all that content being thrown at us, I’m a lot less forgiving. The analogy I’m going to use is: we may not all know how to shoot a good horror movie, but we know how a good scary one makes us feel. So, without further ado, here are 3 seemingly insignificant things you can fix so your readers’ skin won’t crawl the next time they read your stuff.

Read the news of how 8 families in Singapore found out they were praying to the wrong graves for 39 years because of one misaligned headstone? Spacing matters! A deliberate line-spacing between paragraphs can do wonders for the eye and the mind. It makes things look more organized and it tells the reader to register the point just made and move on.

[At this point, I feel compelled to make this disclaimer that I’m not responsible for the lack of spacing between paragraphs in our earlier posts. I’ll get round to fixing those so bear with us for a while more …]

When it comes to monsters, the majority of us definitely see Count Dracula as Monster Numero Uno The werewolf is probably next, followed by Frankenstein’s Monster. Like monsters, fonts have to follow a pecking order. Headers (aka Titles) have the largest font size, Subheaders (aka Section Heads), second, and copy text the smallest. If you want to bring attention to a certain word/phrase, bold it. Want to add emphasis? Italicize it. Personally, I don’t like using bullets, instead, I prefer to number my points manually so my copy isn’t affected by indents. But, that’s just me.

Like a monster that won’t go away, the topic of spacing is one that deserves another mention. The earlier point talks about spacing between paragraphs as a way to help pace your reader. You should also be aware of spacing between lines, between words, and between the letters in a word. This Wikipedia entry about kerning touches on this point in greater detail.

Content is more than just pouring words onto the screen or paper. How it’s organized and arranged plays an important role in how your reader engages with it. Stop scaring your reader with badly spaced paragraphs and erratic kerning.

If you’re interested to talk to me about the finer points of content design, especially in the area of learning, please connect with me on LinkedIn!