Five Writing Tips for the Web

July 8, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 9.10.00 AMThere’s no doubt about it, writing for the web is significantly different than if you were, for instance, to sit down and start writing a long-form digital document not meant for being published online. But that fact of the matter is, writing for the Web requires a (much) different approach.

Here’s a classic example.

If you open up a Word doc and fire off a paragraph of five to seven sentences, you might not think anything of it. But, when you take that same amount of content and load it on to a web platform, you are generally going to be dealing with narrow column widths, which make the content look longer and, as a result, daunting to read. Imagine if this paragraph had four more sentences. It would look dense and less “fun” to read, right?

It’s 100% a mental thing.

And that leads us to five tips for writing for the Web:

  1. One space after a period. [cue gasp sound effect] Yes, it’s true, on the Web you only need one space. If you’re still banging out two spaces, it’s not an easy habit to break, but it’s definitely doable.
  2. Short paragraph breaks are great for scanning. No matter how skilled a writer you are, it’s highly probable that your content is going to get scanned. When people scan, they tend to jump from paragraph to paragraph, so if you have huge paragraphs it’s likely that the entirety of the copy will not get read. Break the paragraphs up to make them more digestible and scanable.
  3. Visuals are compelling. Remember feeling disappointed when you were a kid and you opened a book and didn’t see any photos? People feel the same way when reading an article online. Visual storytelling is a great way to amplify engagement, and enhance the overall reading experience.
  4. Numbered or bulleted lists are great for scanning. I know you hate the idea that people are going to scan your content, but it’s going to happen regardless of what you do, so adding things like numbered or bulleted lists will help the reader absorb more of content. Prose expressed in this way is also great for making short and sweet “tweetable” statements.
  5. Don’t try to write a college thesis. This is a big one. A conversational writing style goes a long way these days. People are extremely busy and the Internet is throwing out distractions left and right, so the more streamlined you make your content, the more people will want to read it.

Applying the basic items listed above will go a long way in enhancing your overall writing style for the Web.

Image credit: vinestreetcommunications.com

Ryan is Senior Manager, Online Communications, for Ketchum. He’s an avid cyclist and blogger, and is proud of his Southern roots. Feel free to check out his personal website, or connect with him on Twitter – @RyanShell.