CompFAQ/Digital Writing/Scannability

From Gerald R. Lucas
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📝 CompFAQ » Digital Writing 📖


Scannability, in the context of writing and design, refers to the ease with which a reader can quickly and efficiently skim or scan a document or web page to locate specific information or determine its overall content without reading it in detail. This concept is particularly relevant in the digital age, where readers often engage with large volumes of text and information online.

Key aspects of scannability include:

Clear Formatting: Text should be well-organized with clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points. These formatting elements visually guide the reader’s eye and help them identify the most important information.

Concise Language: Using concise and straightforward language helps readers quickly grasp the main points without the need for extensive reading. Avoiding jargon and unnecessary complexity enhances scannability.

Highlighting and Emphasis: Employing techniques such as bold text, italics, or color to highlight key terms or phrases can draw the reader’s attention to critical information.

Visual Elements: Incorporating visuals like images, diagrams, and charts can break up long blocks of text and provide visual cues that aid in understanding and navigation.

Whitespace: Sufficient whitespace (blank space) around text and images makes the content less cluttered and more visually appealing, enhancing scannability.

Logical Organization: Information should be logically organized, with a clear hierarchy and flow. Readers should be able to quickly identify where to find specific details or topics.

Scannability is essential in today’s digital environment because it caters to readers who often skim content before deciding whether to engage with it more deeply. Websites, articles, reports, and other forms of written communication that prioritize scannability are more likely to retain reader engagement and convey information effectively.

Exercise: Creating a Scannable Resume

Objective: The purpose of this exercise is to guide you in developing a scannable resume that effectively highlights your qualifications, making it easy for potential employers to quickly identify key information.

Understanding Scannability

Begin by familiarizing yourself with the concept of scannability in resumes. Keep in mind that employers often receive numerous applications and may only spend a few seconds scanning each one. A scannable resume should make it effortless for them to spot essential details promptly.

Resume Content Selection

List your key qualifications, including education, work experience, skills, and achievements. If possible, refer to sample job postings to tailor your qualifications to specific job requirements.


Use formatting techniques that enhance scannability:
  1. Clear Headings: Use clear and consistent headings (e.g., “Education,” “Work Experience,” “Skills”) to organize your resume sections.
  2. Bullet Points: Employ bullet points to list achievements and responsibilities within each job or educational experience. Keep bullet points, parallel, concise, and impactful.
  3. Bold and Italics: Utilize formatting tools like bold and italics to emphasize important information, such as job titles or degree names.
  4. Whitespace: Ensure there’s adequate whitespace around text to maintain a visually appealing and uncluttered resume.


Consider basic design principles for a scannable resume:
  1. Font Choice: Choose a clean, easily readable font (e.g., Arial, Calibri) and maintain a consistent font size throughout your resume.
  2. Margins: Set reasonable margins to maintain a balanced and professional appearance.
  3. Alignment: Align text and headings consistently (e.g., left-aligned or centered) for a polished look.

Creating the Scannable Resume

Begin creating your scannable resume following the discussed principles. Input your qualifications, format text, and use appropriate headings, bullet points, and formatting tools.

Review and Feedback

Review your resume for clarity, consistency, and scannability. Consider seeking feedback from peers or mentors. Remember that a well-designed resume should be easy to skim and effectively convey your qualifications.

Optional Extension

For those who are more advanced, consider what an online, scannable resume would entail. Find example online and create your own.

Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 09-19-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬