4 Characteristics of Great Web Writing

Posted: December 6, 2017

Recently one of our clients asked us if we had any tips on how to write for the web. We do and thought we’d share them with you.

Did you know the way in which we read depends on whether we are reading online or off? Offline we tend to take our time, for example, curling up with a book or devouring the Sunday paper.

Online we’re looking for the quick answer – so much so in fact that it turns out we read only about 20-28% of the words on a web page according to Jacob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group. Clearly, web writing follows different rules than the ones we learned in school.

So, how to write for the web? In short, great web writing should be:

1. Scannable
We’ve all experienced landing on a website that tries to pack too much information into too small a space. The result? We’re left pouring over the page trying to find what we’re looking for is hiding. Because users look for quick answers, make it clear and easy for them to find what they need on your pages as quickly as possible.

Here are some tips that will help:

  • Use journalism’s inverted pyramid and place important information first. Additional details can follow. Remember you’re not trying to build suspense so there is no need to hold back.
  • Break your information into chunks, and use short paragraphs within those chunks.
  • Use bullets or numbered lists to reduce copy. Present each topic or point separately.
  • Use images, diagrams, multimedia to add interest, and reinforce text.
  • Edit, edit, edit to use the least number of words to get your point across to the reader. Less is more.
  • Create white space. Less copy means more soothing white space.
  • Each page should stand on its own. Your website is not like a book – there are no guarantees the reader has read any of your other pages first.

2. Readable
Write for your customers. Understand your audience and know what they are looking for…and then make your copy as simple to understand as possible.

  • Ask yourself: What do users want to do on the page? This is like setting your thesis.
  • Use the active vs. passive voice, i.e. “Sarah wrote the content” vs. “The content was written by Sarah”.
  • Write as if you are speaking. If your sentence sounds right spoken, it will make sense written.
  • Have we mentioned edit? Again, use the least amount of words possible to get your idea across to the user.

3. Actionable
Visitors are looking to learn or do something. Help them accomplish that quickly with the following:

  • Write clear headlines and subheads so the user knows what they are getting into on the page.
  • Questions make great headings – what easier way to find the answer for which you are searching?
  • Never use ‘click here’. Link language should describe what a reader will get if they click the link.

4. Optimizeable
Optimizing your website means making it as fully functional as possible.

  • Really, this is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish for another day. For now, suffice it to say that writing clear, easily scannable, and to-the-point copy is the first step to optimizing your site. If you think like your users and solve for the problem they are looking to solve, you will be good to go.

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. When tools and environments are constantly changing, new opportunities to help our clients achieve success are constantly arising. Each new advertising technology, social platform, or design approach allows us to improve on the results we achieve for our clients.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities.

In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our client partners, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!