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I noticed a trend in many news websites where a sentence from the article is duplicated and highlighted somewhere else on the page, for example:

Sample screenshot from The Verge

Personally, while I think it is visually pleasing as it makes the article looks less like a wall of texts, I find it incredibly distracting for consuming the information.

I am often disrupted when I came upon the highlight, as reading the highlighted sentence without any context often doesn't make any sense, and again when I read that same sentence again in the paragraph, which often causes me to pause and think "wait, I think I read this sentence before".

So, what are the reasoning behind this design decision? Do they somehow get more people to read the full article, or are they just there to provide a visual break?

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It's a pull quote

You're asking about pull quotes. Wikipedia explains its main purposes:

A pull quote (also known as a lift-out pull quote) is a key phrase, quotation, or excerpt that has been pulled from an article and used as a graphic element, serving to entice readers into the article or to highlight a key topic. (Emphasis added.)

So the answer to your question is: "Both."

You note that you find pull quotes disruptive. This can occur if they're implemented poorly. Here are the guidelines, again from Wikipedia:

Because the pull quote invites the reader to read about the highlighted material, the pull quote should appear before the text it cites and, generally, fairly close to it.[…] Pull quotes need not be a verbatim copy of the text being quoted; depending on a publication's house style, pull quotes may be abbreviated for space and/or paraphrased for clarity, with or without indication. (Emphasis added.)

So if a pull quote strikes you and others in the intended audience as needless duplication, then perhaps the editor needs to write the pull quotes differently and lay them out differently.

I hope that helps.

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    Yes, it helps. Knowing it is called "pull quotes" just made it easier for me research its effectiveness. Thanks!
    – hndr
    Aug 31 '15 at 0:50
  • @hndr You're welcome, and thanks for nominating my response as an answer.
    – JeromeR
    Aug 31 '15 at 6:10

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