Writing for the Web
Writing for the web is much different than in other nooks relinquished to procurers of the craft. The greatest fact to keep in mind while writing for the web is that there is an incredible wealth of information on the web, and the attention span of the average surfer is comparable to that of a fly. Not to discredit their intellect, it is not that they lack intelligence, but they lack time to peruse over everything that comes across their computer screen. Your information has to be eye catching and immediately showcases the level of usability and credibility. Anyone who writes for the web will understand that this is a delicate dance to exhibit, but not impossible; it just takes time and effort. Here are some suggestions to help you become a successful writer.
Know your audience and write towards their liking. Come up with a recipe that considers what you are writing about and who you are writing for. You may be a writer that types information out for several sources that have very different readers. It is up to the writer to successfully tailor their writing to the viewers liking.
Reading on screen is more difficult than reading on page, so unless they like your content enough to print it out at first glance (which might be less likely unless they already recognize you as a veritable source), you will have to lure them in.
Construct the page to be light on the eyes. Viewers become impacted with anxiety if they see a big block of writing, so space out your information with headings, subheadings, bullet points, etc.
Update your pages as often as possible to keep the content fresh and on the cutting edge.
Complement fresh and informative content with some visual attractions. Having a designer on hand can be very useful in entertaining while informing the reader.
Spend some time thinking about what to write.
Credibility is a huge factor in writing. If you are going to use a statistic or write something that you are posing as fact rather than opinion, it better be true or your number of viewers will plummet once they realize you are not writing factually (and in the world of the web, word gets around pretty quickly).
If you have particular keywords or phrases that serve as the base of the reason for the writing, then it is suggested to use bold font, italics, color, underlining, or some other way to get your intended sense of urgency across to the understanding of the reader.
Don’t overdo it with the eye catching font because this will only revert the reader back to the same sort of scanning behavior they would have originally adopted the effect only works when used sparingly.
Using bullet points slows down the eye of the reader so that they will pay more attention to the information contained rather than seeing it in one big block of text.
At the beginning an article it is good practice to provide a rundown of the headings and subheadings contained within, so the reader can make a decision more quickly.
Provide useful links that are pertinent to the construction of the page. This will let the reader know that you are consulting other sources as well and will help the augment the readers’ sense of your credibility. You can either provide them in the form supplied here or have a list of references at the end of the content.
Utilize the editorial process. If you don’t have someone who does in house editing specifically, at least get in the habit of having someone else read what you have written for grammatical mistakes, readability, and good flow.
I wanted to leave these last two topics for last, because I myself have a bit of a difference of opinion with some other sources: the construction of headings and style of writing.
As far as the headings go, some will say not to be ‘cute’ or ‘witty.’ I am sorry, but I disagree- mostly. The main title of an article or resource should not be too obscure or witty as to fool the reader into thinking the information is something that it isn’t; so, as far as the main heading is concerned, I will agree with them- make it short and simple.
What I do disagree with is being completely boring with the writing from then on. I think some sources discredit the sense of humor and wit of the common person. Okay, maybe an unfathomable reference to Renaissance poetry that would only be recognized by the small percentage of the public who reads such is going a bit far, but basic puns and pop references can get (should I dare state it) a giggle from the reader, and I think this is okay.
As for the writing style of the article, I will refer back to one of the first things stated; you have to know come up with a recipe for what you are writing and cross that with who will be reading it. I don’t think this means that even if you are writing for business, you have to write as if your tie is tight enough to hang your sense of humor with. Some material requires a bit more of an objective tone, but nothing has to read like an instruction manual.
It is okay to have some faith in the general sense of humor of readers and to again, assume that most people will enjoy the experience of a chuckle or two J. I don’t mean to make a mockery out of your subject, but it is okay to let the reader know that another human being wrote the words and not a desensitized robot L.
Again, the last two points are purely my subjective opinion and you have the freedom of free will to offer your accolades or refutation. I hope that this helps in your writing endeavors on the web. Try to have fun while providing others with information; believe it or not, people can get a sense of personality from your writing….
Have a question for James? Ask or leave a comment below!