Beginner Content MarketingContent Creation

How to Write for the Web

By August 21, 2014 No Comments

Writing is one of the most sought after skills in marketing. An excellent brand story is the difference between another consumer product and an iconic brand. It’s also the reason that buyers to make the decision they do, when researching, processing, and making decisions in the mobile workplace. But writing for the web differs from writing for print. Web writing needs to succinct, clear and strategic. Here are 11 tips that will make your good web writing great.

1. Write Everyday

To be good at anything, you need to practice. Sit down and write everyday, whether it’s on a blog, for your company, in a journal, for a news publication, or just fun creative writing. Your writing skills are the basis for your web writing skills, so this is the first place to start.

Learn to write for the web.

2. Read Your Work

Go back, and read what you’ve written. This simple editing exercise will communicate your writing voice more clearly, illuminate your writing habits or tendencies, and turn you into your biggest critic — which can help you later when writing professionally. If you have a blog or website, try previewing your work on a web screen. You’d be surprised how differently your copy reads when illuminated in tiny bits of binary.

3. Read the Web

Read. Read. Read. Reading increases vocabulary, familiarizes you with your industry, and shows examples of new ways of communicating similar ideas. Writers are creative people. The more exposure you get to the craft, the better you’ll become. This doesn’t just mean scanning sites. This means applying a critical eye to great content and dissecting it. Find new blogs, bookmark them, and note what you like about their messaging. Are the sentences short? Are they grammatically correct? Which qualities of the copy is making it tick?

4. Eliminate Adverbs, Adjectives, and General Fluff

What’s easier for someone to read? Apart from creative outlets like literary journals or poetry forums writing is supposed to communicate messages, and in today’s content cluster ecosystem, the quicker you can get the message across, the better.

Wrong: The big brown dog walked lazily through the calm morning. 

Better: The dog walked in the morning. 

5. Eliminate Almost All Usage of “That” & “This”

One of the best tips I learned in college journalism writing courses was to eliminate “that” and “this.” In most cases, these words are extra.

Wrong: There once was a dog with a bone. The bone was big and bloody, and the kind of bone that a dog could really learn to love. A store that sold the kind of bones that dogs like, was down the road. This was the dog’s favorite store. 

Edit: There once was a dog with a bone. The bone was big and bloody, and the kind of bone that a dog could really learn to love. A store that sold the kind of bones that dogs like, was down the road. This was the dog’s favorite store. 

Correct: There once was a dog with a bone. The bone was big and bloody; the kind of bone that a dog could really learn to love. A store sold the kind of bones that dogs like down the road, and was the dog’s favorite store. 

6. Write With an Easy Flow

Unfortunately, a lot of web writers rely on jargon to make them sound more “professional.” The result? The writing feels forced. It’s much better to write in the same style that you think or talk, especially when writing for the web. People want copy that’s approachable, easy, and fast. If they wanted something more challenging, they’d pick up a James Joyce novel or a T.S. Eliot without footnotes.

7. Break Up Long Sentences and Paragraphs

To make your web writing more playful and engaging break up long paragraphs and sentences into smaller ones. Short sentences are easy to read. Additionally, it’s easy for the reader to jump from the beginning of one paragraph to the next. This provides a better opportunity for you reader to consume more of what you have to say. A good rule of thumb is only have 1-3 sentence per paragraph.

8. Hyperlink Relevant Phrases

Online readers expect common answers to their questions to be immediate. Sprinkle hyperlinks in your writing to clear up confusing concepts, or provide the reader with more information on a topic. For instance, if you were writing about NuA4 molecules, you might link to this relevant article. In a strange way, hyperlinks add credibility to your site and serve as a new-age bibliography. It shows readers where you are getting your knowledge.

9. Use Bullet Points or Lists

I hate the list post, but recently did some research on its effectiveness, and found that the list post outperforms a standard story post almost every time. Why? Because lists and bullet points break up copy, and often feature key things that would otherwise would be hidden deep into paragraphs.

10. Get Bold

Bold your copy where you want to add emphasis to anything. Do this because the readers’ eyes will jump to the boldface as they read. It’s less about emphasis, and more about making sure your reader didn’t miss a key element. Like you maybe just read “didn’t miss,” right?

11. Keep It Short

Write enough to tell your story, and no more. If you’re in content marketing, implore your editor to be tough and cut all excess words and information so that your message is succinct. Most Americans have shorter attention spans than goldfish.

Most Americans have shorter attention spans than goldfish.

The chance that you are reading number 11 is almost zero. If you are still with me, comment below (it’ll be an interesting little survey of who actually read this). With these key points, your web writing will be much improved. But remember, you’ve got to practice. Grab your pen, keyboard, tablet or phone and start composing.

Jean Spencer

About Jean Spencer

Jean is a Content Marketing Strategist, Cloud & Enterprise at Microsoft, focused on pushing and redefining the limits of what content marketing can be. She also likes to do crossword puzzles and rock climb.

Leave a Reply