Websites require a unique style of writing.
People consume websites differently than other forms of media: they don’t read; they skim. They will read only about 20 percent of the words on the average page. Does the below sound familiar to your own online reading behavior?
- Readers are simply in a hurry because users on the Internet are motivated by trying to save time.
- Readers understand perfectly well that they don’t really have to read everything because, usually, they’re just searching for what’s personally relevant to them or what can help them achieve the task they’re pursuing.
- Readers are already so well-trained in scanning pages from years and years of scanning print (newspapers, magazines, textbooks, novels, etc.) that they’re used to it and good at it.
Make your website easy for users to digest.
Here are some recommendations on how to write for the web, so that you can write content for exactly how people read on the web.
- Be concise
Do not say in 150 words what could be said in 75. Do not say in 75 words what could be said in 30.
- Write simply, don’t get fancy
Long sentences with complex structures that endeavor to explain in complicated terms a topic that could otherwise be described in a more straightforward manner are best avoided. Use simple sentences.
- Avoid jargon
Neutral language is easier to read and understand than subjective and boastful text. Be clear and direct.
- Use the “Inverted Pyramid” style of writing
Put the essential and most interesting information at the beginning. Include additional information in order of diminishing importance. Learn more about the Inverted Pyramid theory here »
- Use keywords
Use terms that are commonly used to describe your topic. Avoid using proprietary terms and abbreviations as much as is possible.
- Use headings
Break up your text with brief but descriptive headings and subheadings so users can find information faster.
- Break up different ideas into different paragraphs
Long, dense blocks of text are intimidating to readers. Several short paragraphs are preferable to a single long paragraph.
- Make your text skim-friendly
Use bulleted lists in place of long series or text lists. Like this list!
- Highlight only as necessary
Use bold very sparingly to draw attention to an important point.
- Use the proper case
Sentence case is much easier to read than uppercase. To emphasize an important point, use bold.
- Make links easy to identify
Links should be a consistent color and style. Do not change the color of a link to make it stand out. Do not underline any text since it may be confused for a link. When we deliver a website, we will have already included style guides for links. Please don’t alter the look of hyperlinks in your text.