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.

2. Online readers are on a mission.

  • They're probably busy and distracted (and most likely reading on a mobile device).
  • They're on a quest for specific information, and they'll go elsewhere if they don't find it quickly.

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 in your first paragraph, or start with a preview of what you're going to say.
  • Concise. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs (one idea per paragraph). And if it can be in a list, make it a list.
  • Focused. Don't overload a single web page with multiple topics. If you have information on many different subjects, use a top-level page that quickly directs "traffic" to sub-pages for each topic.
  • Real. Avoid jargon, marketing-speak, and "impressive" language. Keep your messages direct and your language objective and honest.
  • Error-free. It's harder to catch errors on a screen. Ask someone else to proofread your copy, or try reading it out loud.

Web writing resources