Breaking Down the Wall of Text
by Daniel VanDyke
The infamous Wall of Text (flagged on online communities as WOT) is an article, argument, or statement that spills down the screen in an unbroken barrier of text with few to no tabs, breaks, paragraphs, images, or any form of structural formatting.
While walls of text have become less common on the modern web, they still appear in the odd corners or on pages written by those who don’t understand the importance of web-friendly layout and formatting.
But when they appear, whether in a blog, social media post, web store product descriptions, and even on website category pages, a wall of text is an instant death sentence for that content’s engagement.
I briefly considered writing this article as a wall of text to serve as an illustration—but if I had you wouldn’t be reading this. Walls of text are profoundly intimidating to users on the open web, and rightly so:
- Walls of text are visually uninteresting
- Lengthy chunks of block text don’t play well with mobile formatting
- Lack of formatting suggest ranting, spam, or otherwise low-quality content
- Lack of headings or structure makes skimming far more difficult
- Walls of text make content look longer than it is
All of this together leads to a dramatically higher bounce rate and cripples otherwise valuable and insightful content. Fortunately, the problem is easily corrected with a few web-formatting best practices.
Breaking up Walls of Text
At its core, the issue with a wall of text is artistic. When words are packed together solidly, it crowds out white space and prevents visual relief, scaring away readers who rely on clear headings and formatting cues to absorb meaning without a time consuming word-by-word analysis. The same content that is doomed as a block can be saved with a few simple tips and tricks:
Increasing the Rate of Paragraph/Line Breaks
Writing and formatting web store content is a learned skill, and one that goes against some of the lessons you learn writing in school. Ideas should move faster and paragraphs should be shorter with more frequent paragraph breaks to segment different ideas.
Available in WordPress, Word, and countless other content programs, heading styles introduce new topics in the work with larger, differently formatted, or colored text headings. Like these ↑ ↓.
Another source of visual variety, bullet points are an excellent replacement for long serial comma sentences and make it easy to efficiently stack information or examples while providing them with extra emphasis.
The internet loves lists. They’re easy to digest, come with built-in logic and structure, include frequent breaks for white space, and the format lets the reader know ahead of time just how long the article will take.
It’s 2019; Any good product listing, website page, blog, or other article should include at least one appropriate and relevant image whenever possible. Supporting images draw eyes and boost engagement, strengthening and being strengthened by the text they marry and providing excellent visual relief.
No WOTs, No Exceptions
These principles apply to digital content regardless of its length, the location of the fold, or the nature of the content being used. From social media posts to deep political analysis or technical reporting, human-friendly formatting makes content that much easier to approach, absorb, and digest.
And it’s important to note that avoiding large text blocks does not mean shortening or dumbing down content. Good content locked into a walls of text can be saved! Your info deserves to be presented in a way that is as simple, attractive, and easy to understand as possible.