How numbers make content more readable

Readers don’t want to see big blocks of words in the content they read. They want things to be broken down in a way that can be scanned.

What is it about top five, 10 or 20 lists that never gets stale?

Apparently folks just love seeing things ranked in order. Even if the list is “Top 10 Reasons Why Top 10 Lists Don’t Work,” people would still click on it and talk about it.

Whatever the reason, they work. Especially in a headline. If they didn’t, websites such as Buzzfeed and Cracked would’ve dissolved into nothingness years ago. They both took the list idea and ran with it, showing that Internet readers love numbers.

It’s not just about lists, though. Throwing numbers around in your writings is always a great idea. Like lists, numbers just give people something to hold on to. They’re something tangible to help you understand the piece you’re reading.

Understanding the world

Though writers often lovingly craft press releases and articles, the cold hard truth is that people are busy. They want to scan. Anything you can do to help your readers get the point of your piece and fast means that your reader will spend a little more time on what you wrote. Everybody immediately understands a top 10 list.

And it isn’t just top 10 lists. Readers just love numbers. For example, let’s say your blog post is about people in the area who read physical books versus on a device like a Kindle. Saying things like, “a majority of readers in the metropolitan area use a Kindle” isn’t that interesting. However, saying “61 percent of readers in our 2014 poll say they prefer the Kindle over a physical book” immediately makes the reader look at the numbers. You quickly get an idea of what the story is about simply from a few numbers splashed in there.

Also, consider the fact that most of the material we see on the Web is words. If there’s suddenly something that breaks up the “sameness,” like a number, it’s going to wave for attention from your readers. It’s a great way to bring your readers into your world and your perspective without overwhelming them.

How to make it work for you

You can always perform your own studies, polls, and surveys to come up with your own numbers. That might be one of the best ways to go, considering that it’s 100 percent your own material. This means it’s brand new information for people, even if the actual story is a repeat of other info.

You don’t always have to do it that way, though. One other idea is to break down information in a brand new way. For instance, if the story about book readers versus Kindle readers has spread around like crazy, you could always be the one who breaks the numbers down in a meaningful way. Simply doing this could give your story more traction than others.

Also, don’t forget to use some numbers in your headlines. Again, sites including Buzzfeed and Cracked thrive on this model, and it works for a reason. It’s attention grabbing simply because it breaks up the sea of words we’re used to seeing. If it gets their attention, how can that be a bad thing?

Do you regularly use numbers in your content?

Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases PR in Baltimore, Maryland.

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