When I started writing for the web a few years ago, I had no idea that web writing was much different than print writing. There weren’t blogs then, neither so many websites giving tips on how to write for the web. Since my writing experience had only been with print, I wrote similarly for the web. But with time I learnt that web writing was not the same, it had its own peculiarities.
The differences arise mainly from the readers. Readers read differently on the web than they do on print. Whereas they read word for word on print, they tend to scan on the web. They look for immediate information, skimming through the text ignoring the details. So, to give the readers what they want, web writing has been made non-linear. This means that content is written in bits of information in a non-chronological manner, so when readers look for information, they can find it in one glance. The main object of web writing is to hold the attention of the reader rather than grab it.
When writing for the web, these points have to be kept in mind:
- Use universal language. Web content is read by people from all over the world. So, care should be taken to write in a language that can easily be understood by all. Use simple and clear language, avoid too many adjectives and adverbs, and above all, avoid clichés.
- Use strong headings and sub-heads to attract readers and capture their attention. Highlight keywords and phrases, so readers can immediately see what they want. The web is full of websites with similar content, if readers do not see the information they want at one glance, they will move on to elsewhere (remember, web readers have short attention spans).
- Keep it brief and concise. Web readers are nearly always impatient and tend to ignore lengthy articles. So, write your information in as few words as possible. Ideally, web copy should be 50% of print copy.
- Keep important parts in the beginning of your article. Remember, web readers don’t read, they scan. In 50% of the cases, they leave the page after reading only part of the article. So, keeping the important pieces of information in the beginning is essential.
- Check for the accuracy of your information. You wouldn’t want to give wrong information and lose credibility. If you want readers to come to you for information, build a reputation for being an authoritative source.
Writing effective web content is challenging to even the most experienced writer. What do think? What have your your experiences been?