Writing for the Web: Improve Your Skills in 9 Easy Steps
They say that the pen is mightier that the sword. This is especially true when writing for the web, as we don’t usually see each other face to face. The intended tone of any article is, in itself, a writing skill – more so than in novels, as the author is trying to convey a definite message directly to a worldwide audience, without the help of facial expressions, tone of voice or body language.
Have you ever wondered why some articles are more popular and gain more comments than others? Is it due to the style of writing, or simply the interesting content?
How often have you read an online article, then had to read it over in order to fully understand what the author is saying? I’m not including tutorials or online lessons or courses that don’t require too many words – it goes without saying that those articles have to be clear and concise to guide the reader.
What I am trying to touch on here is something more personal – something that appeals to a wider range of readers. An author must write not for one type of reader, but to interest the masses. Here are some tips that can hopefully help a writer to increase the popularity of their articles.
9 Writing Tips to Improve Your Web Writing
You don’t need to be an English major to write for the web. As long as you know how to write, you are halfway there.
Short and Less, Win the Race
Avoid writing a sentence that is longer than a line. Use bullet pointers if necessary to list something or add an attractive graphic to replace a long sentence. You can break up that boring mass of black type by using lists, blockquotes and other handy HTML formatting tricks.
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You can also have a mixture of bold and italic styles to add emphasis to the words. The other thing that you should take note is the punctuation. Excessive use of punctuation can make the sentence harder to comprehend and could put a reader off. A sentence should be short, sweet with as little punctuation as possible.
Use Killer Headlines and Avoid Flamboyant Vocabulary
If you write a great headline, you will have a higher chance of getting noticed by your readers. As the headline is the first sentence to reach your audience, it’s essential to have a killer headline. Killer headlines also work really well with social media sites to get more buzz. Write a great headline, which is striking yet descriptive, but make sure it’s not too long. Having a good headline, (9-12 words) with appropriate keywords will also help you rank better in search engines.
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Refrain from boring your readers by using limited vocabulary, you do not need to use grandiloquent vocabulary in every single sentence you write, but some occasional use of different vocabulary will make your article more enjoyable.
The purpose of writing is to communicate, not demonstrate your intelligence. The best way to communicate is to use short, clear words that are part of everyone's vocabulary. That's why most newspapers are written to a fifth or sixth grade reading level. Using a word such as "grandiloquent" does not make you appear smarter. It makes you appear pretentious and harms your ability to communicate.
Utilize Headlines and Breaks
A site page or blog post should read similarly to this article, with a main heading, followed by an introduction paragraph or two. Ideally, it should be followed by a sub-heading and break down to further smaller headlines. Headlines act as important signboards for the reader to determine if they want to read the content below the headline, so the headline should describe as accurately as possible the subject matter of the paragraphs. It’s also hard to read a large chunk of text without a break.
Give those sentences a break and segregate them into small paragraphs as frequently as possible. It will make them more readable and give some chance for the readers to catch their breath before continuing to the next paragraphs.
Use Suitable Images Sparingly
I know that humans are visual creatures and like almost all things that are beautiful. However, you need to select your images carefully in order to suit your content and the intended meaning. Don’t use an image just for the sake of using it. If you can’t find any suitable images to describe what you want, don’t use one.
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Adding suitable images not only brings an extra dimension to your article but can also reduce many unnecessary words yet assist your readers to better understand your article. The adage of a picture can paint a thousands words definitely works here.
Obscure References, Jargon or Jokes
Your readers won’t be laughing if they don’t get what you mean. Worse still, if it offends them. Writing for the web basically means that you will get many readers from everywhere around the world. The differences in culture, background and religion may sometimes mean that you have to be very careful with your selection of your jokes or references.
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Replace any obscure words with other similar examples that are more generally acceptable and known by the majority of people. You might also want to take note of the type and topic of article you are writing about. Refrain from using industry jargon unless you are absolutely sure that your intended readers will know it. You can introduce the jargon and spell out each abbreviated phrase before using it.
Leave “But”, “And”, or “Yet” Behind and Keep “Also” Away
Many writers like to use these common words to begin their sentences. If you are challenging a concept from the previous paragraph or sentence, you can use “However” to start the sentence. If you are trying to follow up on an idea from a previous sentence, don’t begin a new paragraph and just present the idea in the next sentence.
Frequent use of the word “Also” will make it looks like a grammatical glitch and is highly noticeable after a while to your reader. Appropriate use of “Also” is needed and you do not want your article keywords to be stuffed with it.
Test Your Readability
Web writing is all about readability. Make sure that your type is in an appropriate size, color, and font. Do not use a fancy color or overly small or handwriting fonts. When you insert links to other areas in your article, remember to keep them relevant and don’t overuse them. Quoting and attributing from other sources is nice and brings you credibility, because readers know that you've got nothing to hide if they want to check you out. However, an article full of links will appear spammy to readers.
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Try to link those URLs to the relevant proper names, keywords and phrases, rather than having the URLs themselves written out, or worse, the over-used "click here." The trick here is to use a standard web safe font, color and size. Do your comparisons between popular blogs and experiment on what is the best for your article.
Write For the Human Reader
As all good web writers will tell you, write for the human reader rather than for the search engines, so avoid using repeated emphasis keywords in your whole article. Spell checking your article is not enough. You have to read it yourself again to make sure it flows smoothly. You may want to engage a proofreader to maintain the quality of your article and handle the grammatical and punctuation issues.
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An article full of grammatical errors will affect your credibility and reputation. Don’t overly rely on the proofreader to edit all your work though, you must start to learn from your mistakes in order to write better articles in the long run.
Ask a Question and Engage Your Reader
Writing for the web is different from other print writing because you tend to receive comments after your article has been read.
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If your article is argumentative and thought provoking, you should seek the response from your readers by asking them. Don’t bore your readers and discredit yourself with a tentative and biased opinion. If you believe you are right, explain why. Present your research and share with your readers. Never lie about your competitors and never revel in your rival’s misery.
You don’t need to stuff your article with all possible information – outline the basics of the information and offer a ‘further reading’ link so the reader can find out more if they wish. Use a good ending line, which will engage your readers. Ask engaging questions such as describing their own opinion or views, relating their experience etc. You can also use it as a reminder for them to promote your article.
"The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, and write, write, write." - Ernest Gaines
Ready to Write for the Web?
The most important thing when you write for the web is to first know why you write. Write for a reason, whether it concerns your work life, your hobbies, or your inner thoughts, write passionately about the things that matter to you.
In web writing, more so than writing for print, it is important to have a conversational tone that is easy to read. If you make it too hard to read, readers will move on to something else.
Website copy should always be engaging and interesting. Hopefully, these tips that I have provided can improve your web writing skills. Remember to keep writing and at the same time absorbing the feedback and you will surely improve.
Will you follow these tips? Do you have any other tips for article writing? Please share your comments with us!