Upon research and in class discussions during an English course titled Multi Media Writing a surprising fact came to my attention when discussing online readership.
Studies have shown that online reading differs from traditional page reading in that the reader does not read left to right for each and every line, but rather the reader’s eye skims the page in an f shape, still reading from left to right but moving in this f shape in order to push through reading more quickly and take in the information that sticks out most or feels most relevant to the reader.
I decided to indulge in an experiment. I post poems & other material on my blog frequently and I usually would post in the traditional format familiar to authors and readers. However I decided to re format my poems into this f shape as closely as possible to accommodate modern readers.
I also kept paragraphs short and spaced on when writing non fiction or short stories to make it more likely my readers would read the entire document and feel less inclined to skip any line or paragraph in their skimming.
As I started writing and posting in this format, I noticed an immediate increase in my following. I gained 10 followers in a single day, one of my best gains ever. I attribute this continual increase in my following to my new formatting of poems and blog posts.
This does not mean the reader is immediately making the connection that they like my posts more because they are posted in this accommodated F shape, most online readers are actually unaware of this habit of skimming the page. I believe my following has increased because these people are finding the formatting of the reading more aesthetically pleasing, because it unknowingly, caters to their experience. They are better able to take in all of my words instead of just randomly taking in the pieces that stick out to their mind.
I am not insisting that writers should cater to the lowest common denominator, but I am suggesting that the changes brought with online readership can be harnessed to ensure an authors work still has its desired effect on the reader by using the new unconscious methods of reading to the author’s advantage.