Writing for the Web

People read differently on the web. To get your message across, you need to write differently too.

How is it different?

Most people don't read word-for-word on the web. They skim, they scan, they quickly search the page for the specific information they're seeking.

There are two key reasons why we read this way online:

  1. It's physically more difficult.
    • Reading a screen is slower than reading a printed page.
    • It's more fatiguing to the eyes.
    • They're busy multi-taskers with no time to waste.
    • They're on a quest for specific information.
  2. Web users are on a mission.

Good web writing is...

  • Scannable. Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones, and use bulleted lists and helpful subtitles to help make your content easier to absorb at a glance.
  • Inverted. Put results, conclusions or must-know information at the top of the screen, not way down below the scroll line.
  • Concise. Eyes fatigue more quickly when reading long articles online vs. on paper, so keep it short. A good rule of thumb is to keep it half the length you'd use for a printed piece.
  • Focused. Don't overload a single web page with multiple topics. If you have information to convey on many different subjects, consider a top-level page that quickly directs "traffic" to separate sub-pages for each topic.
  • Real. Avoid flowery language and obvious marketing messages. Keep your messages direct and your language objective and honest.
  • Error-free. Ask someone else to proofread. Even if your spelling is perfect, a second pair of eyes may notice things that are ambiguous to a reader who doesn't know the material as well as you do.

Web writing resources

These links will help you learn more about effective writing for the web: