7 Tips for Capturing Short Attention Spans

image of short pencilYou might have noticed that people’s attention spans are getting shorter.

You can probably thank/blame the internet for that. But it doesn’t matter what’s causing it — what matters is that you’ll have to factor it in when creating your content.

Because if your reader gets bored and drifts away, they’ll never get the chance to benefit from your terrific content.

There are a couple of nifty tricks you can use to help make your content easier to read — and easier for your readers to stick with.

Use subheads

Subheads are the various headings and subheadings you can add to your text.

Here’s the “H2″ subhead

Here’s the “H3″ subhead style

Here’s the “H4″ style

Here’s “H5″
And here’s “H6″

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

Take advantage of block quotes

The blockquote style is intended to set off material you’re quoting. It’s a great way to visually break up a post and pull that reader’s attention to something interesting you want to talk about.

If advertising is for a good cause, it is worthwhile. Buddha advertised enlightenment or Nirvana. If it is reasonable and beneficial, it is good, but if it is only for profit, cheating, and exploitation, or is misleading, then it is wrong.
~ the Dalai Lama

Another good tool is the “Notice Box.”

Notice boxes can pull the eye right to your most important content. Use them sparingly! Once per post is usually plenty. You do want to break your content up so it’s easy to read, but you don’t want so much formatting that the page gets cluttered. It’s a balance.

Use bulleted lists

There are two kinds of bulleted lists you can use in WordPress, and they’re both great useful ways to make your content easier to scan and pull in reader attention.

The numbered list

  1. This is a numbered list.
  2. You don’t have to put the numbers in — they’re coded for you automatically.
  3. These are great for those “101 Ways to Do Something Really Cool” posts that readers tend to love.
  4. They’re also excellent for step-by-step content, which is another type of content readers always go for.
  5. Numbers of any kind tend to hook people’s attention. That’s why I used a number in the headline of this post!

The “unordered” list

  • The “unordered” list is a vanilla bulleted list, without any numbers.
  • Because your reader can’t orient herself with the numbers, it’s smart to keep these to 7 bullets or fewer.
  • It’s often smart to pull the most important points of your post into a bulleted list. Again, you’re helping those short attention spans focus.
  • I always try to keep my bulleted lists to an odd number. It’s just a bit more visually pleasing. So 3, 5, or 7.
  • And yes, once in awhile, I’ll just do a “list” with one bullet point.

7. Don’t forget a great image

image of young woman with remote control

Don't let them click away!

Remember that strong images can pull the reader in and engage her emotionally before she’s even had a chance to respond intellectually to your words.

Images can make your reader feel happy or sad, tender or angry, before you’ve written a word. They’re a great way to snag those short attention spans long enough to hook them with your content.

You can find terrific images from the inexpensive stock photo houses, and there are also literally millions to choose from that are available with a “Creative Commons” license. Choosing a strong image takes a little longer, but it’s a great way to add impact to your content.