Not everyone reads books from cover to cover. Unless you’re reading a work of fiction, it’s a safe bet that not every sentence on every page will be read with the full attention of the reader.
If that surprises you, it souldn’t. Even if every word isn’t read, the reader should still be able to benefit from reading your book if you incorporate a few common tactics.
Most people scan nonfiction content. I don’t think this is a new development, nor do I think it represents the dumbing down of society due to digital publishing. As book publishing becomes an increasingly competitive space, publishers are building books based on the reader’s native consumption habits rather than traditional literary guidelines.
Every writer should write to be read. Just like a speaker molds his or her presentation to the audience, so should an author.
Common tactics to include in your next manuscript are:
- Write shorter sentences. Simple sentences are best. Compound sentences can easily be separated into two shorter sentences.
- Write shorter paragraphs. Two to three sentences are often long enough to form a short paragraph. If your paragraphs are too long, it can be intimidating to the reader.
- Identify pull quotes to be set apart from the standard body copy by the designer. Readers like sound bytes. Use them to your advantage.
- Utilize subheadings. The longer the chapter, the more subheads you need to keep the reader moving through your text.
- Include a summary of key ideas at the end of each chapter. This is a great exercise to ensure you have covered all your key ideas during the manuscript editing process.
- Include discussion questions—especially if it’s nonfiction. This makes it easy to incorporate the book in a group setting. Depending on your audience, this can transform your book into a development resource.
What other characteristics or tactics do you find are helpful in gleaning nuggets of wisdom from the books you read—even if you don’t read every word on every page?
Ben Stroup is a content activist in a post-paragraph world. He is chief broker of opportunity at Ben Stroup Enterprises. Connect with Ben via email, Twitter, and Google+. Subscribe via email to learn how to use content to move people to action.