On how I write (recognizing skimming)
So far I've tried to cater to audience who reads texts the same way I do. I focus on giving my blog posts a form that'd flow through and just cover the whole subject with prose.
I've given very little attention to making my texts easy to scan through, because I've been scanning texts through relatively little.
As the posts get more complex and difficult to read, it may be that this kind of a prose-like writing becomes a problem.
I need to work on how I'm writing texts to account for text-skimming.
Different ways to read
I don't know how this video ended up to my recommended feed. Perhaps it happened because I was trying to find content about writing textbooks. I was catched by the good title. "How To ABSORB TEXTBOOKS Like A Sponge". It's a fragment from Matt DiMaio's lecture.
The video explains how to read textbooks, but we can transport all of this to blogwriting.
There are at least two ways to read blog posts:
- You just read them like prose, starting from beginning and proceeding to end. This is how most people read all the text they get.
- You read the headings, skim through, read exercises or otherwise find points to focus on and beat yourself a "path" through the text. This may be the technique scholars and people with good reading&comprehension skills use.
If I'm right about this, I've been turning away people who might be interested about reading these posts. My texts have lacked the structure to let educated readers to skip through the text.
The flow is still important, and if you give the cues, some people may skim it instead of reading it through, that's great because they likely comprehend more of it despite spending less time on the site. Tell your thing, be done with it, that's the modern thing nowadays.
Skimming actually works
It may be worthwhile to mention I didn't just watch some video and thought it's great. I tried it on the "Introduction to Logical Relations".
I understood the text a lot better while still reading it through faster. It's a hard subject though, I still got to try it out on something to finally understand logical relations. It'd seem they just extend typing judgements to prove whatever you like to prove for your calculus.
Reasonably polymorphic's writing guide
I also read Sandy Maguire's "How to Write Technical Posts (so people will read them)".
The premise of that post fits the ongoing theme I of this post but the text itself maybe falls a bit short of the objective it's trying to present.
I found it jarring to read in detail, although the cues were there.
- The title such as "Writing Strong motivations" detracts from the text. I think good title would be more active and reveal more about the text's direction, even with expense of being a bit longer. Perhaps "Present your motivations", would be a better subheading.
- Prose-form may still be a good form worth practising, even in a text that'd be structured for scholars. Too many too short paragraphs could be bad despite it all. Your "bread text" should still be as good as it can be.
I still agree with the content of the text though!
But it's quite important to notice that bad cues may create something in resemblance of a garden path sentence, increasing the "engagement" time with your post.
Critical read as well
Maybe it's worthwhile to point to the www.criticalreading.com website as well. It guides you on how to read texts, but you can invert the lessons to writing as well. It's like wrestling with your fingers.
My advice to writing skimmable text
First you should write it in prose with few or no subheaders. Organize it, rewrite few times.
When you add anything that outlines the text, it starts influencing how you write the content. In short texts it detracts from the content.
When you're about finished, add the subheaders, put things into lists, give some emphasis, etc.
In any case make the skimmable parts of the text reflect the contents of the text.
I'm considering to write a textbook
I'm interested about this now, because of planning to write my first ebook on programming. Mainly I'm doing it to make ten-dollaries flow into my pocket for a while.
The objective is to give functioning knowledge to solving problems with programming and help associate correctness&verifiability of a program with its readability. The book would establish Curry-Howard-Lambek correspondence and mathematical logic as a design tool and thin down the gap between theory and practice.
If I proceed, it's going to be a textbook with a traditional form. It's going to have table of contents, chapters, examples & illustrations, exercises in the end of each chapter. Each chapter with a focus on specific subject.
Writing the book with pandoc
I guess I'll draft the book with pandoc. It's already installed to my machine and doesn't seem too difficult to use.
Pandoc can produce several text formats with reasonable amount of formatting. Makes it easier to publish things in HTML, PDF, epub.
Finishing words & Miscellaneous ideas
If you just keep writing blogposts every week like I do, you don't necessarily learn anything from doing that. You gotta reflect on it, like I do in this post.
I think I get really few people to keep reading my texts and it may have been due to this. Maybe it is that you get more people to read your text if you give cues to quickly skim things at first reading.
Finally there's something fairly weird I noticed recently. I suppose people believe what you write into your blog, even if it was just self-compliments. I saw a guest blog filled with so many self-compliments that it buried the content. Lets see if that works, I'll hide in few self-compliments into my upcoming texts and see if they get better reception.