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Longform Layout: Keep Readers Hooked ’til the End

Did you know you can paginate your blogs? (We’ll forgive you for not participating in the pagination writing challenge.) Well, you can, to create the best possible imitation of page-turning online — pausing to click. It’s a great way to break up really long or image-heavy posts and pages.

To create a page break, make sure you’re writing in the Text Editor, then paste this where you’d like the break:

<!–nextpage–>

You can insert as many as you want (although at some point readers will get annoyed at all the clicking, so take it easy with your new toy).

Use any of these options, or combine them to take readers on a visual journey. Take a look at how some bloggers use them to great advantage in these excellent longform reads:

Whether your post is ten sentences or ten paragraphs, ensure you’re including the breathing room readers need to make it to the end. With a variety of options, there’s one that will work well for your topic and writing style.

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  1. This idea is not something I have really considered before now. Thanks for the read! I will be implementing and experimenting with this strategy in my next blog posts.

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  2. Great post! I love longform and these are all great tips when doing longer posts.

    I do have one question, though.

    I often write longform and thus pagination is very common for me. I often wonder why I can insert a “more” tag in visual but not a “next page”.

    Since they’re both HTML tags, is it at all possible that this can be integrated into a future update of WordPress?

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  3. Thanks for the tips. One more thing that works for me is to write in points – 1,2,3,… 25. It’s better if we can highlight the important word in each point. For some reason, people find it easy to read a list, than to read paragraphs. Of course, bullets can be included within paragraphs – that is even better.

    The challenge is to create a consistent experience for existing readers and the ones coming in from the search. The first group expect us to finish the post faster and give the message succinctly. But the second group expect us to give as many details as possible, as they are really interested only in that topic. Finding a balance with both is very difficult, especially with long-form content.

    I will implement your suggestions, for sure.

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  4. I’m still trying to figure out many things like breakout quotes and all but thanks for the tips! When I get down to write a ‘proper’ post, writing beyond 2000 words seems like nothing and I feel forced to reduce it each time 😛

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  5. thanks. Still figuring out layout and will try to utilize your suggestions… I know I tire when I read long posts, and hate the thought of potential readers getting bored or overwhelmed at what I attempt to write. Appreciate this post. DAF

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    1. Another thought is to publish long pieces as multi-part posts, either over the course of a day, or over several days. Then, readers can really tackle them at their own pace.

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  6. I need to remember this–I get a little wordy with a post, then the paragraphs get a little fat, and then even I get bogged down reading through it. Great post! 🙂

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    1. Happens to us all! My rule of thumb is to revisit any paragraph that’s more than 10-12 lines long. It might be fine as is, but often I find a place to add breathing room or do a bit of editing.

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  7. Good basic tips Michelle re layout and readibility. White space, short pars, cross-heads are essential.

    A lot of my posts tend to be longform ie 1000 words plus. The last couple have been 2000 plus. Doesn’t seem to put off regular readers but I guess they know what to expect.

    Pagination eh? not my thing as it means an extra click. Any extra click is a nuisance. A bit like slow loading. Beware the gimmicks over simplicity.

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    1. I’d certainly agree that most posts, even long ones, don’t need pagination, but for real multi-part posts or posts with lots of images/images meant to take the viewer on a journey, it can be deployed to lovely effect.

      I’m glad to see more people writing longer form posts; short and clever is great, but there’s something satisfying about spending time with a longer piece.

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      1. It would be good in a future post if you could link to some good examples of pagination and make the topic a post in its own right. While I don’t think it would suit my style, I’m always happy to learn.

        In terms of writing longer posts, as ever it’s always dependent on style. You commented above about editing pars that are more than 10-12 lines. I just checked my last post and the longest pars are five lines.

        Reading down the comments you are clearly catering for such a mixed audience. It would be nice if you could occasionally have a post dedicated to people who have been blogging for years rather than weeks or months. I appreciate all tips are relevant to everyone but there is a big difference between telling people the basics (eg don’t use text speak, good page layout, be courteous by replying to comments and repaying the visit) and more advanced techniques (eg using HTML, changing photo sizes to an image size of your choosing, pagination that you have mentioned, and whatever other clever tricks may be around).

        I know you do posts with advice on how to write that involves other bloggers eg the parenting one. But have you done one about what other bloggers like to read? ie what makes a blog attractive to them and draws them back? Because that’s what we all want. If you have and I’ve missed it, sorry.

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      2. Thanks very much for the feedback! We’re started trying some posts aimed at more advanced users, like CSS tutorials, and will certainly experiment with more in that direction.

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  8. Great post and tips. I tend to get wordy with some of my posts but I always insert several pictures to break up the paragraphs. I will use some of your other suggestions as well. I’m new to WordPress so every little bit of information helps. Thank you.

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  9. I’ve used pagination a few times, but find that it usually results in readers missing my second page because they don’t see the page numbers at the bottom. I’ve not taken to adding a message at the bottom of page 1 that they must click through to page 2. Isn’t there another way to make the pages more obvious to readers?

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  10. Hehe, I already do a mix of headings and images to break my posts up.

    Not too sure about pull quotes, though. I find them distracting if I’m reading — I break out (hurr hurr) of reading the main text to read them out of sequence, as they’re so loud and big. This is exceptionally annoying if they’re just a quote from inside the actual passage.

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    1. It does require self-discipline and time to cull out frivolous phrases and words.

      I have not pulled out excerpts even though my theme allows it. I’m not totally convinced with longer blog posts plus several photos embedded and subheadings already, that excerpts would keep a reader on the “page”.

      Subheadings help readers decide to read certain sections. Sure it would be great if my blog post was read in its entirety but I doubt it. So if they read 2 paragraphs with a germ of thought, ok plus look at pics with subheadings. Yes, it may not be an accurate takeaway of the blog post’s original meaning, but what can I do? This is why I try to minimize too many clicks for the reader to skim over the whole blog post or several recent blog posts on 1 page view.

      I get lots of remarks regarding my photos but I doubt I would get this much if I hadn’t also provided some text near the photo(s).

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  11. This is a great post with a lot of helpful insights. I appreciate the theory of white space. Headings, quotes, and pictures are great to skim, helping you decide whether or not a post is worth a full read. Lots to think about–and that’s a good thing.

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  12. Perfect! Love the idea of the subheading and the image to break it up. My posts are usually longer (I try not to go too much over 1,000 words/post). If it is going to be longer,
    I write it in parts. I’ve done a few of those. It’s fun to leave cliff-hangers so readers will be back. And in retelling a narrative, I like the idea of the scroll design to show the transition!

    Thanks!

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  13. I always tend to think I’ve written something long enough as I write a post but then find myself surprised it turned out to be such a short entry when I view it. Thanks for the tips which are most appreciated..

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