July 11, 2006
Liz published this at 11:23 am
Writing for Online Is Different
Effective writing is writing that works. It follows a set of rules we agree on. We call those rules writing conventions, as in conventional writing. Where some writers can trip up is that they don’t realize that the conventions for writing for print are slightly different from those we use when writing online. The differences are small in nature, but big in impact. They can mean a reader stays to read or clicks on by.
Now I’m anything but conventional. Still I know the value of following convention to make my readers feel comfortable in knowing how to navigate through what I write.
The 6+1 Secret Rules of Online Writing
Okay, so the rules for online aren’t really so secret. But some of them aren’t really talked about as being different. You know that if you surf the net. Many pages reflect work prepared for print readers and not adjusted for folks who are reading from a computer. Here are the six plus one Secret Rules of Online Writing.
1. Use a dazzling, grabber headline to name your article. The noise online is louder and more pressing than in print. In print you might get 3 seconds, online you only get a blink.
2. Write in shorter paragraphs. Online readers are bombarded with light as well as print. They also take in info-bytes and think about them before they read on. Print readers spend more time in a paragraph and take more time later in reflection.
3. Highlight key points and use more subheads. Online readers are often researching for quick information or if reading for entertainment, they’re looking for info-snacks. Let them process the key points quickly.
4. Use keywords in titles, subheads, and first sentences of paragraphs. I’m not advocating the overuse of keywords. However, well-placed keywords will get your articles where they will get read.
5. Use lists and links, but avoid tables. Lists are easy to read and take in. Links allow readers to choose for themselves whether they need more information. Tables should be converted to lists, because tables are difficult for search engines.
6. Show a grasp of standard writing conventions – spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and mechanics. Folks online tend to be slightly more forgiving, but don’t take advantage. The online grammar police will let you know if you do so.
PLUS ONE: And do be forgiving yourself. This media is easily changed. If you see an error, email the writer off the page.
Online conventions the sixth trait of effective blog writing. It’s one more pillar of effective blog writing and a phenomenal tool for building a business brand. Of course, the other kind of conventions are fun for building a brand too.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you’d like Liz to work with you on your writing, visit the Work with Liz!! page.