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  • Writer's pictureLinda Pizzitola, Kauai, Hawaii

Hooking Skimmers and Scanners

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

hooking skimmers and scanners - design + copywriting

We all do it. With the onslaught of information coming at us every day, we have to filter it. We skim for a quick overview of the message. We scan for the specific information we’re looking for.

When we’re sorting through potential reading material, making our A pile (read now) B pile (read later if I get around to it) and C pile (not for me), we aren't yet committed to a written piece. We’re casual readers. So what turns a casual reader into a serious reader? What gets your document into the A, or at least the B pile?

We want to be able to locate and organize key information fast. We want to be entertained. We want interaction with ‘moving parts,’ not a sea of gray. Design elements can add contrast and interest and chunk down a long gray document, making it more appealing and easy to digest.

To capture skimmers and scanners, we have to first snag their attention and ignite their interest. Only then will the reader consider diving deeper into your story. Casual readers get serious once you’ve piqued their desire. Age old principles of graphic design and layout, plus the latest findings in applied human psychology can help do the job.


• Use big, juicy headlines

• Consider a subhead leading from the headline down into the body copy

• Add impact to vital, emotionally rich parts of the copy with images and captions

• Break up your copy with frequent subheads to make it inviting and easy to read

• Emphasize key paragraphs with indents, colored text, or a light color block

• Provide relevant, supportive content in sidebars

• Pull quotes from the story to stand on their own

• Consider an oversized initial cap for the first paragraph

• Include bulleted or checked lists

• Use tables or graphs to clarify complex data

pull quotes
three (3) kinds of subheads

There are some designers who've not only mastered the craft [of making copy inviting and readable] but have elevated it to an art form. And I don't just mean they've learned how to make a sales letter "pretty." I mean designers who can take a piece of copy and, just by changing how it looks, supercharge the response. -World Class Copywriter, John Forde


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