It’s important to remember that writing for the web is a very different skill from other types of writing; essay writing, report writing and writing for print all require differing styles, content and tone. When writing for the web ‘short and snappy’ should be your mantra.
Jakob Nielsen, guru of web page usability, found that only 16% of users read the copy on a web page and that a huge 79% simply scan the page*. Readers are impatient, they want the important information to jump out at them from the page. With this in mind, here are some key points to focus on when you are writing web copy.
Clear concise headings
Use your headings to attract the eye and guide the reader through the copy. Don’t try and be clever with titles, keep them clear and to the point, so readers know what to expect. Make use of subheadings in the same way. Front-load the important information in the heading (this also helps for SEO optimisation), so try ‘Ladies Fashion – what’s hot and what’s not’, rather than ‘What’s hot in ladies fashion’.
Make sure the text is easy on the eye and easy to scan. As well as your use of headings, keep paragraphs and sentences short. A big solid block of text is a lot harder to read than a series of short ones. Make use of images to enhance and don’t be afraid to leave plenty of white space.
Don’t try to be too clever, don’t use three words when you could use one, keep it snappy and simple. Flowery language, puns, overly complicated words, technical language or business speak and jargon are all likely to turn your reader off. Most visitors just want to find the information that they need and move on, if they have to wade through needless copy to get there you are likely to lose them.
Find your voice
Find a voice and tone that suits you and suits the demographic that you are targeting. Try and give your writing some personality. It depends on what you are selling, and who you are talking to, but generally the style of writing for the web is less formal and verbose. Do keep it professional though, avoid jokes, inappropriate language and an over familiar tone.
Pack in the Information
Condensing the language used doesn’t mean condensing the information. Keep it informative, don’t fill with waffle. Always write with the question ‘What does the reader want to know?’ in mind, and answer it with clear, straightforward and specific information.
*How users read on the web, Jakob Nielsen