Chapter 1 - The Basics

Scannability: The Style and Format of Blog Posts

When it comes to web content, first impressions matter. An online reader gives a piece of content about 10 seconds to catch their attention. If the content fails to lure in the reader within those 10 seconds, the reader is gone.

So it is crucial to format blog posts so they (1) are easy to scan or ‘scannable’ (2) highlight important elements in the content.

The most important, scannable elements of content are the:

  • Headline
  • Subheadings
  • Graphics
  • Bold, underlined, italicized and/0r highlighted text
  • Bullets
  • Summaries (in the introduction and conclusion)

How to Create Scannability in a Blog Post

Blog posts/articles can be formatted in the following way.

  • An Introduction – should be brief (roughly two to three sentences long), support the title by stating the main topic/idea of the content, and offer a short synopsis of the content to come.
  • Sections of Supporting Ideas (at least three) – should be separated by subheadings. Each section should support the title by offering detailed information relating back to the main topic/idea.
  • Conclusion – should be brief (roughly one to three sentences long), wrap up the content and support the title by restating the main topic.

We build out this basic format to highlight the scannability and visibility of important elements in the content. You can also use this process to create an outline for your content. Plug in your main ideas as subheadings and supporting ideas as sections of supporting blocks of text.

How to Style Sections of Supporting Ideas

Sections should be separated by a subheading that is formatted with the proper title tag (usually starting with Heading 2). Whenever possible, include a strong image that supports the text after the subheading.

The number of sections of supporting ideas will vary based on the delivery and word count of the content; however, you should never use less thanthree sections of supporting ideas.

You can identify the appropriate number of sections by considering the word count and delivery of your content.

  • A fun, 1000-word article about the Top Twelve Celebrity Dogs will include 12 sections (one for each dog).
  • An informative, 500-word article about Cell Phone Spies may include three to five sections, depending on how many main points the writer will showcase.
  • A 500-word article about Six Creative Uses for Old Cell Phones will include six sections (one for each phone).

Include roughly the same amount of information in each section when the sections are parallel elements. Parallel elements discuss matching information such as:

  • Answers to the same question
  • Elements of the same list

For Example: Top Seven Twitter Apps includes parallel elements in the sections, so each should be around the same length.


How to Style Blocks of Text, Paragraphs, and Bulleted Lists

In each section of supporting ideas, you should include roughly one to four blocks of text (paragraphs, bulleted lists). Paragraphs should be no more than 100 words in order to keep the content scannable.

If a section is longer than one to four blocks of text, it is best to divide it into another section or create subsections. When creating subsections within a section, use logical hierarchy with the subheading title tags. Work your way down from Heading 2. It is good practice to use a brief paragraph or sentence to introduce a subsection.

Using bulleted lists is a great way to make content scannable. Items in a list may be short phrases or complete sentences. Introduce a bulleted list with a sentence or short paragraph and include 3-10 items in a list.

Bulleted List


When styling bulleted text, use numbers instead of bullets when relevant (countdown, steps, etc.), and use bold, introductory phrases whenever possible.

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