Best Practices for Writing Online

Writing online is much different from writing for print. The most important thing anyone writing for the web should know is: online writing needs to be much shorter than other writing.

Keep it short and concise!

Online writing should be half the word count (or less) than traditional writing. Online readers tend to scan most of the time. Therefore, an online writer should try to make it as easy as possible for readers to scan for information.

Web readers have less patience when looking for information, so always keep in mind that writing short, easily understood chunks of text is the best strategy. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Keep sentences and paragraphs simple. Each paragraph should convey one idea. Users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words.

Avoid flamboyant vocabulary

The purpose of writing is to communicate with your reader, not advertise your intelligence.

Use inverted pyramid style

Most readers do not scroll so place the most important information first within a text.

Boldface, lists and subheads make for easier scanning

These elements help shift readers’ eyes towards content you want them to see, and also makes it easier for them to remember those things.

Another way to break content up on a page is to use a bulleted list. One way would be to write a short sentence and then support it with bullet points.

Hyperlinks

Create links to other pages to allow readers to find more information. Take advantage of online reader’s short attention spans by providing lots of links for them to navigate. Use an accurate description of the linked content in a sentence instead of the phrase “click here.” This is preferred because the link will actually tell the reader about the content.

Citations

The purpose of citations is to create trust between you and your reader. You want people to think of your site as the main source for good information whether it actually be on your website or not. People will always prefer websites that provide links to other sources.

Readers should always have confidence in your site and its information. Sometimes it is difficult to determine what content is accurate so provide the reader with citations whenever possible.

Active Voice

Never use passive voice. Using the active voice is one of the best ways to write more clearly and more direct.

Downloadable file vs. webpage

When should you copy content onto a webpage and when is it better to simply upload to an original document so that your visitors can download it themselves?

1) If the content is longer than 10 pages you should post the document for download. Few people have the patience to read any document that long online.

2) If your document contains complex graphics or layouts it is better to post it for download.

3) If your content is short and non-graphical, it is probably best to turn it into a straight-HTML webpage.

By Mandi Clark