7 Tips for Writing for the Web

Photo of a busy young woman using a laptop.
Readers tend to have a shorter attention span on the web. (Photo: stokkete)

Good writing is good writing, regardless of whether it’s online or in print. However, there are many things you can do to tailor your writing to the web and get better results with your online content.

Here are seven tips to optimize your content for the internet.

1. Use Shorter Paragraphs

Shorter paragraphs are much easier to scan. In addition, big blocks of text can intimidate your readers and scare them off.

Generally, people scan online content much more so than they do printed materials.

Why? Because they’re in a different frame of mind. When someone sits down and opens up a book, she’s probably planning to read for a while—but when people read stuff online, they’re often between tasks, so their attention span is shorter.

Additionally, when you have printed materials in your hand, you have a better sense of how long the text is because there’s a physical component. For example, you can easily feel the difference between a one-page brochure and a thick, heavy novel.

When someone is reading online, he won’t always know how long a piece is until he’s getting toward the end of it. This also makes people more likely to skim online material.

2. Put the Most Important Information First

Again, remember that people tend to have a shorter attention span on the web. Additionally, they might get distracted, pulled away, or disconnected from the internet. When those things happen, they often won’t remember to come back and finish reading.

By putting the most important information first, you can ensure they’ll get the most out of your content.

Also, when the most important information is first, readers are more likely to finish the entire thing. This acts as a safeguard against the shorter attention spans.

3. Don’t Neglect the Headline

A good headline is a great asset in all types of writing, but it’s even more crucial online.

There are many distractions on the web, which means there are numerous things competing for your readers’ attention simultaneously—email, social media, advertisements, multiple browser windows and tabs, etc.

To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need a headline that grabs the reader’s attention.

Don’t Miss: 7 Simple Tips for Writing Better Marketing Headlines

4. It’s Usually OK to Write in a Conversational Tone

Generally speaking, content on the web is less formal, so you usually want to write in a conversational tone. It’s typically fine to address the audience directly and use personal pronouns.

With that said, remember that this can vary depending on what you’re writing—so use your best judgment. For example, white papers are typically more professional than blog posts.

5. Redundancy Is Good

It’s OK to have more redundancy when writing for the web. A website isn’t like a book, where the reader can start from the beginning and go through it page by page. Someone might find your blog; skip around, reading a few random posts; then visit your home page.

You never know how readers will find your online content and what they’ll read first, so it’s smart to have some redundancy across the web.

That means you can repeat what you do and whom you help, as well as the topics you write about.

Don’t copy and paste information, though—redundancy is fine, but make sure you’re rewriting the material, saying the same thing in different ways, and covering similar information from slightly different angles.

Don’t Miss: Why Avoiding Clichés in Business Writing Is So Important

6. Write for People, Not Only Computers

Search engines use algorithms to decide which websites rank the highest for various keywords. Many businesses fall into the trap of trying to write specifically for computers and robots.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is important, but don’t lose sight of the real readers: humans. Besides, these days search engines are becoming smarter and smarter, and writing naturally is the SEO standard now.

7. Write for a Specific Audience

There’s so much content on the web, and it’s constantly expanding—so make sure your writing is targeted. Otherwise, it’s hard to stand out and get your material noticed.

By following the guidelines above, you can make your online content much more effective. If you’re looking for an editing team that understands business writing for the web, we’d love to hear from you.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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