Man looks impatiently at watchHave you run across “TLDNR” yet? It stands for “Too long, did not read.”

As the Urban Dictionary explains it, you respond with “TLDNR” when someone writes too much in a blog post and you can’t be bothered reading it all. Ouch.

Everyone is impatient online. We quickly abandon ship when a site takes too many seconds (seconds!) to load. We jump to the next site when we can’t find what we’re looking for in a couple of clicks. We stop reading after a paragraph or two, or maybe even a couple of sentences.

Norman Nielsen Group studies show that people rarely read web pages word by word. Instead, “they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences,” says Jakob Nielsen. In fact, 78% of test users scan any new page, and only 16% read word by word.

This is something to keep in mind if you are a writer or web content provider. Whoever your readers are, the traditional advice for writing online applies:

  • Make your text easy to scan, with small chunks of copy and lots of white space.
  • Use bulleted lists. According to Nielsen, people look at lists with bullets more often (70%) than lists without (55%).
  • Get to the point.
  • Highlight key words.
  • Use familiar words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Have one idea per paragraph.
  • Guide readers with subheads and good writing.
  • Write at a 6th-grade reading level. You aren’t “dumbing” the content down, you’re making it easy to grasp the meaning. (Check your wording for grade level and readability at Edit Central.)

Nielsen includes much more detailed and helpful advice on writing for the web in his Feb. 1, 2013 Alertbox newsletter.

Have you run across any web writing that made you respond (even mentally), “TLDNR”? Please share in the comments. And let me know if you need help turning your communications material into readable web writing.

This article first appeared in an issue of my newsletter. Wordnerdery is a quick read about words, effective/expressive writing, newsletters and more. Are you a subscriber yet? If yes, thanks for reading! If not, you can sign up right now. In keeping with Canada’s anti-spam laws, you can easily unsubscribe any time.

Image: Impatient man by “pat138241” and