Writing is one of my favorite things to do. There’s something about the flow of words that just gets me excited. But becoming a good writer takes practice. And writing for the web, in particular, is it’s own kind of beast.
As seasoned web readers, we’ve become extremely adept at judging good writing from bad, and our discernment results in either staying on the page or moving on. This means, as a writer, you already have keen insight into what does and doesn’t work. Let’s break it down.
Tip 1: Identify Your Audience
What’s the point in writing for the web if it’s not directed at anyone? Think about that one type of person who you want to influence most with this argument, and then focus on him or her.
Tip 2: A Descriptive Title
Sounds like a no-brainer, but the web is rife will titles that have absolutely nothing to do with the content. Decide on a title after you’ve written the content, to make sure the two are consistent. Skip the sensationalism and create a title that sums up the overarching message of the article.
Tip 3: Get to the Point, and Quickly
The purpose of your lede (i.e. lead paragraph) is to pull your reader in, so it has to do two things: pose a problem and then immediately propose a solution. Everything that comes after is your argument for or explanation of that solution.
Problem: Writing for web can be tricky and takes practice.
Solution: You’re a web reader, you already have insight into good web writing.
Tip 4: Short Paragraphs
Studies have shown that reading speed and comprehension are compromised when reading from a screen (versus paper). Do your readers a favor and break up your content. Try limiting yourself to a 3-sentence mini-argument: open with the issue, continue by proposing a solution, conclude by giving the solution. See? Easy.
Tip 5: Choose an Easy-to-Read Font
Unless your goal is to induce migraines, go easy on the script. Verdana and Arial are both excellent, albeit ubiquitous, choices. They’re easy on the eyes along as you don’t go below a 10 point font size (12 or 13 is a good rule). Your design skills are not in question, so lose the fancy fonts, unless you have a designer on salary.
Tip 6: Text Formatting is your friend, but not BFF
The key is not to go overboard, but use it strategically for the biggest punch:
• Bolded headlines can be a great way to break up a long article into distinct sections.
• Don’t ever use ALL CAPS to get a point across — it seems like you’re shouting.
• Go easy on the rainbow — it will just look messy.
• Utilize the ‘blockquote’ function for emphasizing entire paragraphs.
• Dark text on light background — never the other way around.
Tip 7: End with a Gateway To More of Your Writing
So you’ve written a compelling article that you’re sure will keep the reader’s interest to the end. Now what? Direct them to another great article. Your goal should be to keep the reader on your site – and readers want to be directed! There’s so much crap out there and constantly searching for good content is hard. Make it easy for your reader and lead them to it.
Tip 8: Edit, Edit, Edit:
Ok, so you’ve finished your article – good job! Are you finished? Hell, no! Chances are, you’re first draft is twice as long as it needs to be. Go back and take out unnecessary verbiage, descriptors – heck, even entire paragraphs if it’s not advancing your point. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.
Tip 9: Find a Role Model
Work smarter, not harder. We learn what good writing is by reading the writing of good writers. Find a writer that you admire, and figure out why it speaks to you. This does not mean plagiarize. It means become inspired and begin adopting techniques that he or she uses.
Tip 10: Hire Someone
Writing is not for everyone. If you’ve given it a college try, but are still struggling, there are plenty of people who do it professionally and would love the chance to exercise their skills on you. Hire a freelance copy-writer. See what I just did there?