(Note – this originally ran on CPATechViews.com)
Writing for the Web is WAY different than writing a newsletter article, speech, e-mail and just about everything else – except for a blog, which is also based on brevity. I think most of us get carried away when it comes to writing for our web pages and other online forums.
I recently ran across a great article – “Nine Tips to Help You Write for the Web;” the source is the Wildfire Tech PR blog. I whittled these down to eight tips and added my own spin on most of these:
- Keep it Short. We’re all busy, so unless what you’ve got to say is insanely gripping, say it and then stop. Don’t ramble.
- Make your Last Point First. In school, we were taught to carefully set out your arguments first, and then make an informed conclusion. Online, the reverse of much more effective. Make your main points first, then explain why you think the main point is the most important.
- Keep Paragraphs Short. We are a society of scanners – think “USA Today.” You get the point. We scan the start of a paragraph when reading online, but we often won’t read to the end. If your paragraphs are longer, make they they contain only one idea for each paragraph and that idea is placed up front at the beginning of the paragraph.
- Use Numbered Lists and Bullets. Again, we like to scan, so make a cumbersome list or a set of thoughts easy for your client and prospects to view and absorb.
- Use Emphasis and Bold. Using bold text sets apart your ideas and provides a “look at this now” command. This also helps with scanning.
- Use Links. Putting in links help in many ways not only to provide your client or prospect with more information, but also for Search Engine Optimization. However, a few words of caution – don’t link too much! You can go crazy linking to an excessive number of sites. Use your discretion.
- Use Headings and Subheadings. Again, think of the “scanner.” This sets apart your copy and provides great touch points with your reader.
- Avoid Big Words, Jargon and Acronyms. You should apply this tip to everything you write – but it is also paramount for web copy. Also, avoid acronyms that only a few would grasp. The rule of thumb is to spell anything out in first reference, followed by the acronym in parenthesis UNLESS the acronym is clear and universally understood. Example of not spelling out: SEC. Example of spelling one out: Association of Accounting Administrators (AAA).
The best advice I can give is to put yourself in the readers’ shoes. What would you want to read? What would you avoid? Thinking through these matters also will help improve the time your clients and prospects spend on your site!