Is Your Text Causing Cognitive Overload?

I have a confession. I know that podcasts are extremely popular. However, I have not been able to bring myself to jump on board.

I rarely listen to podcasts. I am a very busy person (as are many Americans). In my opinion, podcasts just take too long to serve the “meat.”

Is your text causing cognitive overload?

If I want information on a topic, I find reading easier. With reading, I can scan an article or web page and find the important information I am looking for. With a podcast, I am locked in to listening until the meat is finally dished out—which is usually most of the way through the podcast.

I am not alone in scanning or skimming when reading to find information. Research shows that 79% of people scan a web page, while only 16% read word-for-word. Interestingly, another study found that people scan email newsletters similar to web pages.

Too much information results in cognitive overload. Today, we have more information in front of us than ever before in the history of the world. As a result, we can easily become overloaded with information, causing our brain to not work as efficiently.

In an effort to reduce our cognitive load, we scan information. This results in more efficient processing of that information by the brain.

Is your text scannable?

Reading a book is different from reading web copy, marketing copy, or emails. When people choose to read a book, they are making the choice to read word-for-word. When people seek specific information, they scan to find what they are looking for.

To engage more people, it is important that all your marketing material can be scanned easily so that your important points stand out. Marketing material includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Website copy
  • Book descriptions
  • Book back cover copy
  • Author bios
  • Online and print advertisements
  • Author media sheets

Text becomes more scannable when it is broken up. In your marketing text, don’t use big blocks of text like you do in a book. Instead, focus on breaking up the text as follows:

  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Pull out points and make them a bullet list.
  • Keep your paragraphs short.
  • Highlight keywords.
  • Put your most important point first.

A good rule of thumb is that your marketing materials should contain half the word count (or less) then when writing conventionally.

Armed with this information, I suggest that you revisit your marketing material to ensure that it is not causing cognitive overload.

Related Posts:
Two Strategies for Creating Effective Marketing Messages
Sales Text that Sells
Are You Selling or Connecting?

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Photo courtesy of Silviarita and Geralt.

1 thought on “Is Your Text Causing Cognitive Overload?

  1. “Research shows that 79% of people scan a web page, while only 16% read word-for-word.” ~ Good to know! I sometimes feel guilty for not reading blog posts word for word. It’s a relief to learn that I’m not the only one.

    By the way, I read this post word for word. Your presentation and writing style made it easy. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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