There are some best practice guidelines for web writing that everybody agrees on, some underlying rules that can be applied to everything that you write online.
And don’t just take our word for it. Take a look around the web – you’ll see the same core approach across thousands of websites. They include…
1. Write naturally
Try to use familiar words. This means avoiding jargon, tossing in unexplained abbreviations and mysterious acronyms. It also means trying to be conversational. Write like you speak and inject some personality into your articles. When you talk to your readers, use ‘you’.
2. Keep sentences short
Cut out unnecessary words. Do flowery phrases like this one really, truly add anything to the very core of the content that you’re producing? No. So slice them out.
3. Keep paragraphs compact
If a paragraph has got any more than three or four sentences in it then it’s probably too long. Cutting back chunks of text helps keep copy scannable and skimmable for the reader.
4. Use sub-headings to break up the text
These can not only highlight key sections of your text but provide extra ‘entry points’ into your copy for skim-readers. Subheadings can also be useful for summarising the key points of the article and as a secondary path through long articles.
5. Use bullet points for lists
Or a numbered list:
6. Emphasise key points
Use bold or CAPITAL LETTERS to highlight key points or important keywords.
7. Use blockquotes for quoted copy
Make your quotes stand out from the rest of your text by using the blockquote function in your Web Content Management System (WCMS).
8. Use images to add meaning
According to the old saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words”. By adding an image (the top-left position is considered the most effective placement), you can enhance the presentation of your articles and grab your reader’s attention.
9. Add extra links to add value for the reader
Always think of your reader first. What other information would they benefit from? What couldn’t you fit into your content that you can link out to? Is there any other content on your own blog or website that could be helpful? If so, link to that.
10. Use relevant keywords/keyphrases
Effective writing for the web is often referred to as SEO copywriting. This means that it’s ‘search engine-aware’. So ensure that you are using the keyword or longer keyphrase that describes and defines your content in the following places in your articles:
- A sub-heading
- Meta description
- Image caption
- Image metadata
11. Be credible
You can do all of these things above but if you lack credibility then nobody is going to visit your website and listen to what you’ve got to say. Usability guru Jackob Nielsen has these thoughts on writing for the web:
We found that credibility is important for Web users, since it is unclear who is behind information on the Web and whether a page can be trusted. Credibility can be increased by high-quality graphics, good writing, and use of outbound hypertext links. Links to other sites show that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let readers visit other sites.
You can find more of his thoughts on the subject here.