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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.

The Internet is fast. Everyone who uses a computer expects it to respond as quickly as they are able to punch a key.

If you press the ‘R’ key on your keyboard you expect to see the letter ‘R’ display on the screen right away. If there was a delay, or a pause before the letter appeared on screen it would be jarring, or you would assume there was something wrong with your computer.

This expectation of speed comes through to content on the web. Readers expect content to appear quickly, and often expect to parse through information quickly.

Text on a computer screen slows our reading by 75%.

  • text is harder to read on screen
  • use short paragraphs
  • use emphasis

Computer screens have come along way from the tiny green monitors of the first computers. The basic principles still apply – reading text on a screen is harder than reading text on paper.