In a post at Email Marketing Reports, Mark Brownlow presents a screenshot that looks like a page from a 19th-century novel: lengthy paragraphs filled with sentences of uniform length.

That, he notes emphatically, is not how your email messages should look.

“In fact, you wouldn’t read the words if that was an email,” he says. “The wall of text is a barrier that few will bother scaling. No matter how good the writing, how valuable the information, how trusted the source, response is sacrificed because the paragraph length demands more reading effort than some are prepared to commit.”

It’s all psychological. The same information that looks ponderous in two paragraphs appears easy-to-digest when broken into five paragraphs. In other words, the rules you learned at school about fully developed paragraphs simply don’t apply to online communication.

Here’s what you need to do:

Write paragraphs that occupy as little as one line but don’t exceed six lines. “This … issue becomes more pressing as screen displays narrow, thanks to the spread of smartphones, netbooks and other mobile devices,” Brownlow notes.

Reduce the sense of monotony by varying the length of your paragraphs and sentences. “Throw in the occasional one-line paragraph or a three-word sentence and you may annoy your English professor,” he explains. “But you give the reading landscape contours and diversity. The content looks like a melody of words, not a dirge.”

Write the words and the music. Engage your readers with lyrically arranged text that gives your message visual appeal.

Source: Email Marketing Reports.