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When reading a standard book or piece of paper your eyes are actually looking at light that is reflected off the paper. The light bounces off the paper and sends information to your eyeballs.

Reflected light is what we are used to, and it is how we learn to read and understand the world. Computer monitors do not reflect light, but project light. They send a light signal directly to the screen so our eyes pick up the signal in the opposite way from reflected light.

The main difference is that light is now shooting directly into our eyes, instead of gently reflecting. Our eyes get tired faster, and the whole process is agitating to the eyeball. It is not how we learned to read.

Write your text to have short line lengths and make scanning easy by “chunking your text” and using emphasis to highlight important concepts.

Further reading

Light and colour

Additive colour vs. subtractive colour

Computer monitors have many different resolution settings. A laptop computer with a small screen may have a small size, but it is possible for it to run the same resolution as a larger display hooked up to a desktop computer.

Resolution refers to the number of pixels that display on a screen. A standard television has a smaller number of pixels, while an average computer screen has a larger number of pixels.

The technical details are complicated, but the end result is easy to understand. Readers who look at your text may see a wide variety of different sizes when they read your text.

Your text may look very small – even if the reader has a large screen. Ensure you write well and communicate clearly. Use high contrast so it is easy for readers to see text.

A typical piece of paper is 8.5 inches wide and 11 inches tall. The page orientation of a typical piece of paper is portrait, or taller than it is wide.

Paper Size

A computer monitor is wider than it is tall. This means that a page full of text on screen has wider line lengths, and less vertical space. When a reader encounters longer line lengths they are likely to lose their place when moving from the end of one line of text to the beginning of another line of text.

Web copy is most useful when it has short line lengths and short paragraphs, so it is easy for a reader to keep their place. Focus on word choice and shorter sentences so it is easy for a reader to follow your ideas.