Writing for the web

People read online differently to print. We therefore have to write differently.
People rarely read web pages word for word. Instead they scan the page to see if they can pick out what they are looking for. And the longer the text, the more skimming they will do.

People probably haven’t come to a web page for the fun of it. They have come because they want to find information or do something as quickly and easily as possible.

So the key aim is to make it easy for users
Make your pages clear and simple so people don’t have to think.

1. Keep it short and cut out all unnecessary words
The average person’s attention span is short. So be brutal: get rid of any repetition or unnecessary content. Every word needs to fight for its place on the page.

2. Keep paragraphs and sentences short
Include one main idea per paragraph.

3. Use simple words
Using fancy words and terms will slow down understanding.

4. Devise text so it can be understood while being scanned
For instance, look for opportunities to use: Bullets Subheadings Bold to highlight key words

5. AAJ - Avoid acronyms and jargon
You may understand what you mean, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Explain anything that’s not likely to be understood by most of your audience.

6. Use meaningful headings and intros
An intro should give a clear summary of the page’s main content.

7. Get straight to the point: write in the ‘inverted pyramid style’
Give answers before explanations, summaries before details, and conclusions before discussions. Look at any newspaper news story for an example. You can include more detail if it’s needed, but structure your content so that this comes further down the page.

8. Go back and review what you have written.
Asking a colleague to read it is a good idea. And check for typos.

9. Keep it relevant
Users will quickly lose interest if too much info is given. People don’t like reading on screen – it’s more tiring than reading print. So they will look for any excuse to stop.

In summary
Writing for the web can take time, but your readers will thank you for it, as it will save them time and hassle, and will help to ensure your message is communicated. Mark Twain is reported to have once written: “I’m sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

Note: This information is from my workplace's intranet. I think this advice will do well on blogs as well as websites. I have been trying to practice this on my blogs.

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