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Let’s talk about writing for the web

conversationThe best piece of advice anyone ever gave me about writing for the web was to write as if I’m talking to a person. Because my background is in fiction, this came as life-changing news.

We all want to give the impression that we know what we’re talking about. So when communicating electronically with existing and potential clients (in blogs, on websites, eNewsletters, etc.), some people resort to industry speak that doesn’t do anything for users who will end up skimming the text before moving on to another page or ditching the website altogether. While this method may be OK for people who are part of the business culture, it isn’t universally appealing if new business is what you’re after. There’s a balance.

The Nielsen Norman Group found that users only spend 4.4 seconds reading every 100 words of text online. To help readers get the most information with as few words as possible, use these standard web-writing tools:

  • Bullets – Use them for more than three items. For longer lists, separate bullets into chunks with quickie titles.
  • Simple language – I could’ve used “segment” in the first bullet, but I didn’t.
  • Graphics – Engage your audience visually.
  • Short paragraphs – Use journalism’s inverted triangle approach and divide away.
  • Links – Offers breaks in the black and white and an escape to another page when users get tired.
  • White space – Nothing like a little breathing room for the eyes.
  • Bold text – It’s OK. Your goal is to get your content read, and stand-out text makes that happen.

– Natasha Dorsainvil