The Problem With Bullets
It’s always tempting to pepper your text with as many little bullets as possible. After all, what’s the point of writing a long piece if you don’t use multiple sentences? It makes sense to save your best footwork for when you need it most. The problem with this approach is that it can break down your piece quickly, especially if your readers get sick of the repetition. Take a look at this excerpt from an article describing the dangers of consuming pork:
“Pork is one of the most popular meats around the world. You’ll often see it served as an option on a menu, alongside beef and chicken. Some people even eat it instead of vegetarian food. Despite all this, pork contains a substance known as ovalbumin. This is an allergen that causes allergic reactions in some people. If you have a history of allergies, you should probably avoid eating pork altogether. In rare cases, an allergic reaction from consuming pork can have serious consequences, even leading to death.”
This little excerpt contains two complete paragraphs, each of which could be the subject of a short news story. In terms of information, it would be a major achievement. But look at how quickly the reader is introduced to the main idea of the story. The author could have easily used a few short, simpler sentences without sacrificing any of the details.
This is why having a single, concise story is usually the best approach. It allows the reader to process the information without having to stop and think. If you write in a way that’s engaging and interesting, people will naturally want to read more. There are exceptions, of course. If you’re aiming for something truly special, you might want to play it safe and spread your information out over several shorter, simpler pages.
The solution to the problem above is to use subheadings. With subheadings, you can still use many bullets as before, but you can do so without having to worry about the repetition. Take a look at this excerpt from an article about the dangers of drinking coffee:
“Coffee is another popular drink around the world. Many people enjoy the taste of this drink. Others see it as a sign of creativity and innovation. Either way, coffee has been known to be good for your health. Recent studies have shown that people who consume coffee are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, liver disorders, liver cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These are just some of the diseases that coffee has been shown to prevent. It’s no wonder many people enjoy the taste of this drink. At the very least, coffee is a healthier alternative to traditional sugar-filled drinks.
Once you’ve established the main idea of the piece in a summary or heading, you can start adding more detail to it. In this case, the summary is “Coffee is good for your health,” and the details include “Recent studies have shown that…” Try to keep your longer paragraphs short and sweet. It’s less likely that readers will get bored or lost if the information is broken down into easy-to-absorb chunks. The important thing is to keep the information interesting and relevant to your target audience.
Bullets Vs. Subheadings: Which To Use?
This article hasn’t set a single piece in stone. It’s provided you with a few different options for presenting information. The best choice will depend on your target audience and the type of article you’re writing. If you are writing for scientists, using simple, short sentences and multiple bullets might make more sense. If you’re writing for an educated audience that enjoys complex language, it might be better to use subheadings and fewer bullets.
It’s all about balance. When you shoot for balance, you don’t want to sacrifice too much for the sake of brevity. You want to ensure that your text can still be interpreted easily by your audience, while maintaining your artistic integrity.
Choosing the right words is as important as choosing the right structure when writing for news outlets, magazine articles, or academic journals. It’s always tempting to just dump your whole dictionary into your text. But if you want your writing to come easily to the average reader, you might want to consider using simpler words instead. In some situations, it’s better to ask questions than to give answers. For example, let’s say you’re writing for an environmental publication and you want to explain the harm that disposable plastic ware is causing to Earth’s eco-system. Instead of saying “Plastic ware is harmful to the environment because it causes microplastic fibers to enter the ecosystem and impede the functioning of the biological filter”, you might say “Many people believe that disposable plastic ware is harmful to the environment. If this is correct, why are people still using it?” Or, if disposables are good for the environment, why aren’t manufacturers encouraging people to use more of it? Leaving questions in your text gives your readers a chance to engage with the information you’re providing. It also makes your article more accessible to a broader audience. When you use questions, you’re asking the reader to step away from their comfort zone. This can be a good thing, especially if you’re trying to introduce new ideas or concepts to your readers. It can also make your article more interesting to those who already know a lot about your subject. Instead of just stating “Disposables are bad for the environment because they take centuries to decompose”, you could say “Why do you think that disposable plastics are harming the environment when some people claim that composting might not be as harmful?” If you’re writing for an academic journal, it would also be a good idea to look into the references you’ve cited, and see how others have handled this subject matter previously. You might want to consider referencing some of the above-mentioned studies to give your essay a sense of authority.
Whether you choose to use bullets or subheadings, you’re going to end up with an organized piece of writing that makes reading easier. There are a lot of things you can do to make your text more accessible to readers with dreading disease. From choosing the right words to establishing bullet points, to ordering your thoughts and keeping your paragraphs short and sweet, there’s a lot you can do to improve the overall reading experience.