Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web is not as different from writing for print as many would like you to believe. While there are certain changes to style and to layout that will aid readers using a monitor rather than paper the goal of your writing is still much the same. Depending on the web site you are trying to inform, entertain, amuse, shock, or otherwise reach your readers. In order to do so you must learn to write clearly.

For our purposes I will be ignoring writers of fiction, poetry, and other styles that allow authors to intentionally create obscure, twisted, and otherwise difficult to read documents. Why? Because they are not my audience. I am writing to designers, developers, and business types who need to quickly and clearly get a point across.

There are a few key steps you can take to get your writing in shape. This is not the be all or end all of good writing but by following a few simple guidelines you can improve your writing greatly.

1. Know your own point and make it obvious to others

Know what you are trying to say and make sure that it comes across clearly in everything you are writing. You main thesis should be the most obvious thing in the world to your readers. Don’t cushion it or blend it into the rest of the text, make it stand out.

2. Don’t equivocate

Strip out all of the softening words. Don’t back off of your point. If it is your opinion it should be clear that it is one of your thoughts without you saying so explicitly, if it is a fact, then stand by your evidence or find more that really backs up what you are saying. Don’t be afraid to come out and voice and opinion or state your conclusion clearly and authoritatively.

3. Get to the point

If what you have to say can be said clearly in one paragraph, don’t take three to do it. Quantity in writing is for children who must be forced to write and people trying to hid a lack of substance through sheer volume. State your points, provide your evidence and draw your conclusions. If you are explaining and idea or a process, do so in clear, concise ways so that the salient points are not lost in the white noise of useless words.

These guidelines can help to make your writing clearer and more effective. Just keep in mind that you are trying to reach an audience and, as in everything else on the web, they will have little patience for fluff and nonsense that gets in their way. Hopefully, you have learned from the example above that it is easy to go on at length about a single point, repeating yourself and stretching out a document without adding anything more of value.

Kevin Hall
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