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Writing for the Web

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September 2009
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A Few Tips on How to Write Web Content

The Canada Press Stylebook (14th edition), states that “many people are now turning to the Internet to get news and information.” And most people who read content on the Web scan the text instead of reading each word. When something interesting is discovered, the person stops skimming and reads more closely, usually word for word.

Furthermore, reading Web content is not as easy as reading paper-based news and information. Reading is slower and often the reader’s eyes become tired.

As well, most people suffer from “information overload.” There is just too much information available in print and digital form for a person to read everything of interest.

Therefore, it is important that anyone who posts content to a blog or Website ensures that their content is easy to read. To do this, the content must be scannable.

Here are a few tips on how to write Web content:

  1. Use headings and subheadings to introduce information that follows. Your topic should have a heading or headline. Each subtopic should have a subheading.
  2. Introduce your topic with a summary. Before reading the topic, readers will often want to know what it is about. So, include a summary in the first paragraph. You can do this by using the inverted paragraph approach.
  3. Chunk information. In other words, break long paragraphs into short paragraphs. A paragraph shouldn’t be longer than five or six lines.
  4. Highlight key words. You can do this by using bold text. Be sure to highlight important terms, concepts, and information. And be sure that you use bold text for headings and subheadings.
  5. Use bulleted and number lists. To give instructions, use a numbered list. To provide information of related importance, use a bulleted list.
  6. Use a caption for each photograph.  A photograph is a splendid way of describing something that cannot easily be said in words. Yet, if you don’t make reference to the photograph in your text, the reader often doesn’t understand the significance of the photo. So, for each picture that you post to a Website or blog, use a caption or introduction to describe the content of the photograph.
  7. Write in a conversational tone. To do this, use contractions (can’t, don’t, won’t.). Also, use the “you” point of view. And use everyday language, or the language that your audience understands. Writing in a conversational tone is easier to read and the content is shorter than a formal “corporate speak” tone.
  8. Use hyperlinks for related material. This makes it easy for the reader to find related information. As well, you won’t need to include the related information in your Web content. All the reader needs to do is click the link. Be sure that the related information is of value to the reader.
  9. If your content includes related information that is not yours, be sure to “source” it. You can do this by making a reference to the website where the content is posted, or inserting a link to the related content, or by mentioning the name of the person who created the content. If the content was written by you, be sure that you add your name.

Next, I will provide you with some information on tools and resources that you can use to blog.


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