Make Your Marketing Materials More Powerful with a Double Readership Path

Have you ever been to a national park, or driven somewhere wild and beautiful, and stopped at one of those scenic overlooks?

You know...those paved pull offs that provide a fabulous photo op, plus a few signs explaining what you are looking at?

Since I spent years working for the Forest Service as a naturalist (I actually have a degree in leading nature hikes and writing these kinds of signs), and I'm a readaholic, I can n ever resist reading these signs.

Some signs grab my attention right off the bat. Others don't.

Now, I'm the kind of person who will happily read the back of a shampoo bottle. So it's got to be pretty bad writing if I'm not interested in reading it.

In college we spent hours analyzing what makes one sign more readable than another (fascinating stuff). Now, as a copywriter and marketing strategist, I still do the same thing everyday.

Interestingly, everything I learned about writing nature signs works equally well for writing effective marketing materials.

And there's one secret I learned that cranks up the power of your marketing materials without fail...

The Double Readership Path

Everyone knows that people don't read anymore, right? We're all way too busy for that.

Instead, if you're like most folks (IE in a hurry), you skim and scan to see if the materials at hand are interesting. If the information is well written, and what you're looking for, you might read at least some of it.

Or, a quick scan might be all you need to find out what you want to know. Then you're off to something else in the blink of an eye.

When I learned to write signs, we were taught to handle this reading behavior by writing a big, bold headline. Then a couple sentences in a slightly smaller font. Then a subhead followed by more information. Plus maybe a few photo captions.

That way, even if you only read the headline you'd get the idea. But it's also easy to read a little-or a lot-more.

Your marketing should work in a similar way. In the copywriting world we call this "creating a double readership path" because you are writing for both readers and scanners.

Sadly, most entrepreneurs are still writing only to suit readers. Their sales letters and Web pages are filled with giant blocks of tiny text. And there's not a headline, subhead or bullet in sight.

They've forgotten about the scanners and skimmers altogether. And I'd be willing to bet they're losing readers' attention—and a ton of business—as a result.

Now some people, especially if they've studied Website copywriting, are starting to figure out the double readership path secret.

They keep sentences short. They use meaningful headlines and subheads. And they know how to write benefits-oriented bullets.

A few even use formatting tricks like highlights, underlines and strategic bolding to increase scanability.

But most fail to think this whole concept through strategically when they write. And that's the key to making the double readership path work.

Because if you use these tricks willy nilly you can actually make your marketing materials more confusing instead of less.

Let me explain...

Beware the Arbitrary Emphasis

A while back I critiqued an ad where the writer used every double readership trick in the book. Unfortunately, there were so many highlights, fonts and boxes it was hard to know what to read. Plus, random words were bolded, italicized or underlined for no particular reason, while critical info—like the guarantee—was buried.

The whole thing was totally confusing. And worst of all, even the headline "Get your F*ree CD" was worthless.

The ad failed to tell me anything at a glance because I couldn't tell what to read first. I didn't know what was on the cd... let alone who would want it, or why I should order it.

The sale was lost long before I started reading because I couldn't skim it first.

Here's the key to making the double readership path work... You have to highlight only information that's most important to your target market—or to making the sale. And these pieces have to read well on their own.

So even if all they do is read the headlines, subheads, bolds, underlines and highlights, they get a complete story.

If you've done it right, your ideal client should get sucked in to reading the rest of the copy too. And voila! The sale is halfway made.

© 2010 Stacy Karacostas. All Rights Reserved.

Practical Marketing Expert Stacy Karacostas specializes in taking the stress, struggle and confusion out of growing your business. Get tons of marketing tips and ideas, plus grab a copy of her info-packed FREE REPORT "The 7 Deadliest Small Business Marketing Sins: Are You Guilty?" at

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