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Writing for the Web: Using Bulletgraphs to Optimize Web Content

By now we are all aware that people do not read Internet content the way that they do newspapers, magazines, or novels. Unlike those forms of writing, the web is a place where users often come to get information quickly. Content is king, as they say, but it will only maintain its place on the throne as long as it is easily digestible. One way to optimize your web content is by paring it down using what we affectionately call “bulletgraphs.”

Contextualize the Content

The task of the online content writer is to pack as much usable information as possible into a relatively concise, scannable document. To do so, many writers like to use brief lists in the form of bullet points in addition to brief two- or three-sentence paragraphs that use little to no descriptive fluff.

When done correctly, though, succinct, direct paragraphs can be utilized as bullets, allowing the reader easier access to the information within. We like to refer to these snippets of content by a not-so-clever, yet perfectly descriptive term: bulletgraphs – a bullet followed by two or three direct, informative sentences that reinforce a larger idea.

Of course, using bulletgraphs doesn’t make any sense if they are scattered throughout the text of an article without any context. In order for them to work effectively, there still must be some sort of exposition that justifies their existence as well as a conclusion that neatly wraps things up. After all, we are still using bullets and bullets are a quick, easy, and scannable way to convey relevant information without taxing the reader’s patience. In short, bulletgraphs should fit comfortably into the larger whole as a way of reinforcing the main point without causing clutter or confusion.

Structure

Let’s time warp back to elementary school for just a moment. Recess, square pizza, Oregon Trail – all that good stuff. In between the fun, though, we also occasionally learned a few things. For instance, all essays should have some sort of thesis statement that all subsequent paragraphs should more or less serve to support. These paragraphs should then be broken down into a series of related topics that advance the primary thesis in a coherent, (usually) chronological order.

Now, whereas the thesis statement served as a macro-directive for the piece as a whole, the paragraphs themselves operated on the micro level. And, as we would later learn in our biology courses, just because something is smaller doesn’t mean that it doesn’t possess its own complex structure. To that end, all good paragraphs have a topic sentence that is supported by a set of compatible points and some sort of transition, conclusion, or both.

These are important elements to remember when creating your own bulletgraphs because these convenient little content snippets essentially work as the main points to support a topic sentence. Remember, the key here is increasing comprehension by decreasing complexity. So when we use bulletgraphs, we are really just deconstructing seemingly cluttered or lengthy paragraphs for our reader’s benefit while also remaining on point.

Words with Benefits

There are several advantages to using bulletgraphs to support the thesis of an article, but perhaps the primary benefit is that they allow the reader to easily digest the content while simultaneously weeding out any fluff – the great scourge of most online content. Think of bulletgraphs as a way of finishing a rough outline. The idea is there. The main points are there. But your thoughts need to be expounded upon without being lost in gigantic paragraphs. The information that you provide in bulletgraphs will help your reader easily scan your article without fear of being consumed by clutter.

I’m going to provide a short example of how to use bulletgraphs that usually would have been better served at the beginning of the article. In this instance, however, I had to bury the lead a bit in order to introduce the idea of a bulletgraph and to extoll its many virtues. Remember, content is nothing without at least a modicum of context.

Many writers use short paragraphs in tandem with bullet points to break down their topics and themes.

  • Bulletgraphs are snippets of content that combine the scanability of bullets with the meaningful content of short, direct paragraphs.
  • Just as bullets and paragraphs follow the general aesthetic and order of a larger piece, bulletgraphs should always be placed within their proper context. They aren’t a cop out, and this isn’t a free-for-all.
  • These stylistic elements are basically concise versions of supporting sentences within a paragraph. They reinforce the topic sentence, which simultaneously reinforces the thesis statement.
  • Bulletgraphs are extremely effective when trying to eliminate fluff, highlight main points, and allow your readers to digest content quickly and easily. In fact, you can even use them to stress and summarize some key points at the end of your piece – if you’re into that kind of thing.

Bulletgraphs take the guesswork out of content creation for both the reader and the writer.

When writing online content, there’s no need to go to Faulknerian lengths to prove your rhetorical mastery. Be honest, be clear, and keep it short. Utilizing bulletgraphs allows you to accomplish all three stress free.