This guest post is by Varda Epstein of CogniBeat.
Worldwide, about one in every ten people has dyslexia. In the U.S., Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a leading expert in the field, says that up to 20% of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia. And yet, dyslexia is just one of any number of possible reading difficulties.
Any blogger who wants to reach the widest possible audience will want to be sensitive to the fact that some readers have reading issues. If you make your blog user-friendly for people with dyslexia and reading problems, it will stand out in the crowd. Those who enjoy blogs but find it difficult to read will reward your efforts by following your blog and recommending it to others who have reading difficulties.
Attracting and keeping readers with reading difficulties is not as daunting as it sounds. Most of what you need to know is stuff you’re already doing. Good design and good writing solve most of the issues that make blogs illegible to the person with a reading problem.
Start by keeping paragraphs short and to the point. Those with reading issues find it hard to keep the place in a long paragraph. Shorter blocks of text are the ticket to readability.
In any event, good writing entails using just one idea per paragraph. That should be your rule of thumb. Keep paragraphs short and sweet to keep your dyslexic and other readers reading.
Layout, Fonts, and More
Don’t double-space after periods, no matter what your teacher taught you in school. Once upon a time, manual typewriters necessitated using mono-spaced fonts. It was thought that double-spacing after periods would help make the ends of sentences more distinct.
Today, the fonts we use on the web have better proportions. As a result, double-spacing after periods has the effect of creating vertical rivers of white space within the text. This so-called “river effect” makes it hard for a dyslexic reader to find where sentences start and end. Single-spacing after periods, on the other hand, offers just the right amount of space between sentences.
Avoid high contrast between text and background colors. Too great a contrast may result in the blur effect for readers with dyslexia. In the blur effect, letters seem to swirl together. Don’t use pure white for background or pure black for text. Instead, add a touch of gray to each to cut the glare and reduce the blur effect.
Use sans serif fonts. Sans serif means “without serif.” Serif fonts have little hooks on the ends of the letter strokes. These hooks make letters less distinct to dyslexic readers and may cause a washout effect in which the text appears faint and becomes hard to see. Fonts that are sans serif come without those troublesome hooks. The most readable of the Windows fonts is Trebuchet MS.
Use bolding to make text stand out instead of italics. Italicized letters have jagged edges and lean to one side. These characteristics make the text indistinct and just about illegible to those with reading difficulties.
Bloggers often get just one chance to attract new readers. If the dyslexic reader has to struggle to read the text, that person will bypass your blog, no matter how great the content. By avoiding these simple design flaws however, you’ll widen your potential readership and make your blog a pleasure to read.
Is your blog guilty of any of these no-nos?