As an editor, I often deal with new writers who have little to no experience writing outside of school essays, email, and social media updates. I get a lot of tightly-worded paragraphs and over-the-top word choices in many of the examples from these writers. It’s great to know they’ll take the job seriously enough to put in essay-quality effort, but I’m looking for writing that’s polished, yet simple.
Here are a few tips on writing for the web to make your writing easier to focus on, informative, and more attractive to online readers.
Use Headers to Break Up Content
If you look back at my previous work here on the Wikiblog or have read my writing on other sites, you’ll see that more often than not, I use headers to separate the various parts of my posts. Not only because it makes a post easier to write, but because it gives the reader something to focus on.
When I click on an article from Facebook or Twitter, I click on it because it either has a really interesting picture or a great title. But once I’ve landed on a post, I’m not likely to stay interested for long if all I’m greeted by are blocks of text. The writer needs to guide me through the various subjects of their article by breaking it down into sections and summarizing it in a few words using a header tag.
This is why lists, such as this post, do so well on social media sites, making them a valuable tool for social media marketing.
Spacing Makes or Breaks an Article
If you want to write well for the web, you need to become a master of spacing. Not only does proper spacing affect the overall tone of an article, it helps add emphasis to specific sentences. How often you space sentences will depend on the size of the content section of the site and font you’re using, but you should become comfortable with spacing the various parts of your posts.
You don’t want to intimate readers with large blocks of texts, you want to slowly guide them through by giving them a short break after reading an important section.
Think of it as if you’re rearranging furniture. The smallest change can do wonders for the overall appearance of a room.
Use Simple Terms
Unless you’re writing for a niche audience that is expected to understand technical jargon, use the simplest terms to word your article. You want your words to roll off the tongue, not struggle. I read my articles out loud during the editing process because it not only helps me catch errors and questionable word choices, it also gives me a better idea of how the article will flow.
This is not only important for your readers, but for search engine optimization as well. In a recent Google Webmaster Help video, Matt Cutts stated that he believes that “the clarity of what you write matters a lot,” when asked if writing using simple terms was more effective than using technical terms.
Your average Google user is not likely to use technical terms to search for information on most topics, and you want those users to be able to find your site so you explain it them.