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Eight Tips to Help You Write for the Web

(Note – this originally ran on

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Use Emphasis and Bold. Using bold text sets apart your ideas and provides a “look at this now” command. This also helps with scanning.
  6. 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.
  7. Use Headings and Subheadings. Again, think of the “scanner.” This sets apart your copy and provides great touch points with your reader.
  8. 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!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Good tips, well put. We must always be considerate of our online readers. On #8, I am sure that SEC is universally understood by CPAs as the Securities and Exchange Commission. Except by those who are fans of the Southeastern Conference!

  2. Nice and concise, Scott. It’s so good I think I’ll use this as a template for my own version. 🙂

  3. As you said writing for the web is much harder than other formats and your respun list is a great resource. Numbers 5 and 7 also serve an SEO purpose so the double duty between readers and search engines is a nice boon to online writing tactics.

  4. This can’t be stressed enough for web writers! I think spacing is also important- don’t be afraid to have a few short paragraphs as opposed to one long one. And, as mentioned above, use sub-headings. This makes a long block of text look less overwhelming to the reader and makes him/her more likely to delve into the topic.

  5. Hi Scott

    Very good post and I am looking at it from a purely SEO perspective. Your point six is well made. Having useful links is one thing, but if you end up linking to a website that is in what is called a “bad neighborhood” then you could inadvertenly harm you SEO.

    In addition, use headings and subheadings not only makes sense from a reader pleasure perspective, but also from a SEO perspective. Anything that makes the content easy to naivgate from the readers perspective will always be rewarded by the search engines!!

    Good work.

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